Religious Leader Accused of Perjury In Alleged Tyson Bribe
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ The head of the nation’s largest black religious denomination has been charged with perjury for denying he offered $1 million to a beauty contestant to drop rape allegations against Mike Tyson.
The former heavyweight boxing champion was convicted in February of raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America contestant, in Indianapolis a year ago. He is serving a six-year prison sentence.
Thursday’s federal grand jury indictment against the Rev. T.J. Jemison was based on his testimony in an unrelated case.
Jemison, president of the 8 million-member National Baptist Convention U.S.A. and an outspoken Tyson supporter, declined to comment. A church spokesman said he would be exonerated.
After Tyson was convicted, Miss Washington said that someone - she refused to say who - had offered her $1 million to recant. Jemison acknowledged at the time that he had called Miss Washington before the trial but denied offering any bribe.
The indictment says Jemison offered money several times. It included a transcript of a Dec. 30, 1991, telephone conversation in which he allegedly offered her father, Donald Washington, up to $1 million.
″If I could be Desiree for a minute I, I’d be most happy to accept an offer of say, between five hundred, nine hundred thousand and get it over with and get my name clear,″ the transcript quotes Jemison.
At another point, according to the transcript, Jemison said if Tyson was acquitted, Miss Washington would not get any money.
″And then you wouldn’t have anything but lawyer bills. But ah, I, I, (laugh) I could take I could take five ta ah .. to .. ah, ah, I say nine hundred thousand maybe even a million ah .. I could take that and invest it and I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life. (laugh).″
Washington’s response was not quoted.
U.S. Attorney Joe Cage, whose office brought the indictment, said today he did not know how the telephone conversation was recorded, but it was not a federal wiretap.
Miss Washington’s allegation was first investigated by U.S. Attorney Deborah J. Daniels in Indianapolis, who concluded she had no jurisdiction. Last month, she turned over her evidence to U.S. Attorney Raymond Lamonica in Baton Rouge, Jemison’s hometown, and the U.S. attorney in Providence, R.I. Miss Washington’s lives in Rhode Island.
The indictment, however, was brought by Cage in Shreveport, based on a question one of Cage’s assistant prosecutors asked Jemison in a trial June 18 in federal court in Lafayette.
Jemison was a character witness in the bank fraud trial of Edmund Reggie, the new father-in-law of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Reggie was acquitted but faces four more trials in the case.
During cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Jemison about his role in the Tyson case and Jemison denied offering Miss Washington a bribe, or even mentioning money to her or her father at all.
Asked why prosecutors would ask Jemison about a matter unrelated to the Reggie case, Cage said: ″To bring up any bad acts obviously could easily affect his credibility before a jury.″
Church spokesman Gus Weill said Jemison is incapable of wrongdoing. ″When the facts come out - as they will - he will be totally exonerated,″ Weill said in a statement.
Conviction of perjury carries a penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine.
Jemison’s contact with Tyson goes back at least two years. In 1990, Jemison said that Tyson had offered $5 million to help pay for the church’s new national headquarters in Nashville.
Miss Washington, 19, has filed a civil lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from Tyson, who is imprisoned in Indiana.