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.