Women’s shelter boss, mayor vouch for Mike Tyson

Who can Mike Tyson turn to for a character reference? The mayor
of Atlantic City, New Jersey, for one, and the leader of Nevada’s
largest shelter for battered women, for another.

Their letters of support were among those sent last year to New
Zealand immigration authorities considering the visa application he
made to travel Down Under. They were among hundreds of pages of
documents from New Zealand and Australia released last week and
earlier to the Associated Press under those countries’ public
records laws.

In the end, the Australians concluded the former boxing champion
and convicted rapist failed their character test – but they decided
to let him come tell his story anyway in five November shows. New
Zealand denied him a visa.np

In the U.S., Tyson’s show ”Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,”
ended a 10-week tour spring Sunday after a run on Broadway. The
show has garnered critical praise for its candor, although Tyson
remains a divisive figure in popular culture.

Tyson has traveled abroad extensively, including to Europe and
South America. New Zealand had initially decided to let him in as
well, but changed its mind when a children’s charity that was
supposed to benefit from Tyson’s visit said it didn’t want any
money from his tour.

Tyson served six years in prison for a 1991 rape. He said in his
New Zealand visa application that he was not guilty of that crime,
but was responsible for several subsequent arrests. He wrote that
he had abused drugs and alcohol through much of his adult life but
had been clean and sober for more than three and a half years.

Included in Tyson’s New Zealand visa application was a character
reference for him and his wife, Lakiha, written by Marlene Richter,
the executive director of Las Vegas-based women’s shelter The Shade
Tree.

Richter said the shelter’s children ”loved seeing Mike Tyson”
last June when the Tysons rented an ice cream truck and handed out
Popsicles and cones to more than 300 women and children.

In an interview last week, Richter said she faced an ethical
dilemma about whether to allow Tyson to support the shelter, given
his violent criminal past.

She said she was impressed by the way he seemed dedicated to the
children and followed through with promises. The Tysons later
auctioned fight memorabilia, she said, raising about $20,000 for
the shelter.

”I don’t know if he’s 100 percent changed,” Richter said.
”But I felt he was trying.”

Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford also gave Tyson a character
reference, mentioning his notoriety but saying he had helped make
the resort city the center for boxing on the East Coast. He wrote
that the city was ”ever so grateful to him and his dedicated
efforts on our behalf.”

In Australia, officials concluded Tyson failed that country’s
character test because of his criminal convictions. They looped in
the immigration minister, who let Tom Wodak, the immigration
department’s principal character decision-maker, have the final
say.

”All indications are that Mr. Tyson has rehabilitated,” Wodak
wrote in an email to staff approving Tyson’s visa. Wodak added that
the short duration of his trip and the fact his family would be
accompanying him ”all point to the likelihood of an incident-free
visit, and thus to a risk of further offending that is not
unacceptable.”

During his Australian ”Day of the Champions” tour, Tyson
appeared in five cities without incident, except for some fans who
complained that they had paid extra to meet him in person and had
left disappointed.