Harris on the Record

What impacts you and the media doesn't cover. – Art Harris

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Guess Who’s Coming to Town

What a hoot!

If you were Mike Tyson, what city would generate the most controversy for a 23-city run of his new show, “Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth?”

None other than Indianapolis where the former heavyweight boxing champion fell from grace after his conviction for rape 21 years ago.

Think about it. It smacks of pure hokum to hype the tour.

Bet the farm there will be protests from women’s rights groups and support from Tyson fans, which will draw the media flies, creating more free buzz, as evidenced by the space he received November 29 on the front page of The Indianapolis Star.

It’s a natural for the media masters that would draw kudos from P.T. Barnum, despite the smoke from a representative of the company managing the tour, who termed it “a coincidence”  that Iron Mike’s 10-week road show will open here, Feb. 12 and 13 at the Murat Theatre.

Tyson was found guilty by a Marion County Superior Court jury on one count of rape and two counts of criminal deviate conduct on Feb. 10, 1992 and spent  three years in the Indiana Youth Center in Plainfield.

Get the timing – conviction Feb. 10, show opens here Feb. 12.

Writing about the  New York City opening in August, Emma Brockes, a correspondent for London’s newspaper, The Guardian, was quoted in The Indianapolis Star story Nov. 29 that the Brooklyn native wants ”to rehash his defense and question her credibility,” referring to Desiree Washington, the victim. Tyson has always proclaimed his innocence.

As a reporter for the former Indianapolis News, I was in a front row seat during the trial, which had all the media trappings. International and national reporters descended on Indianapolis, many of whom were fresh from the Florida rape trial of a young Kennedy relative, and they smelled blood.

After jury was selected Feb. 5,  the members were sequestered at the former Indianapolis Athletic Club, at Meridian and Vermont streets. That night a fire broke out in the club, and two firefighters and a club guest died.

The next morning as Tyson’s entourage entered the City-County Building to a media scrum, Wally Matthews, a reporter for The New York Post, yelled at Tyson, “Shouldn’t play with matches Mikey.”  Tyson never blinked.

Welcome to the bigtime Indianapolis.

Ms. Washington was a contestant in the Indiana Black Expo beauty pageant, and Tyson was a guest when he met the 21-year old entrant, later asking her out. But, the evening out-on-the town was delayed when Tyson stopped by his Canterbury Hotel room where he said he had to check phone messages. (You won’t find Tyson’s room number 606 anywhere in the hotel. It was removed years ago.)

Ms. Washington accompanied Tyson to his room, and, that was where prosecutors and Ms. Washington said the crimes occurred.

What always puzzled me about her story was the time she spent in the bathroom of Tyson’s room.

Alone in the boxer’s room late at night before any incident, she excused herself and went into the bathroom, where if she had any concerns for her welfare there was a lock on the bathroom door and a telephone in the bathroom, but neither was used.

If there was any good to come from evil, it was the change in how grand jury cases were allocated to Marion County courts.

On Tyson’s appeal, his trial defense team, headed by Vincent Fuller, of the high-powered Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly, was replaced by Alan M. Dershowitz and Lee McTurnan, a former Zionsville resident. They had been law clerks for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. The third member of the appellate team was Jim Voyles, of Zionsville, who had assisted Fuller during the trial phase.

Voyles explained this week their appeal focused on the grand jury process. Marion County Superior Courts were assigned grand juries every three months. When a grand jury returned indictments, the court which had jurisdiction of the grand jury subsequently heard those cases.

Voyles said subsequent changes in the law changed that, and cases resulting from grand jury indictments are now rotated among the superior courts.

That was Mike Tyson’s legacy to Indianapolis – until next February.


Allow me an introduction

After 40 plus years of writing, it’s difficult to put paper and pen aside, especially when the conscience is pricked by some action or activity impacting the public: thus the decision to again pursue the elusive truth.

According to blog etiquette, a brief resume of the author is suggested. So, in all modesty allow me proceed.

Born in 1936 in Brooklyn, N.Y. during one of the nation’s hottest summers, my parents moved a few years later to Delaware where my father was employed as superintendent of the Wilmington transit system. My primary education began at Walnut Green School – a public school with one room, one teacher for six grades, outside toilets and a pump for well water, and I walked there and home two miles each way – character building they say.

In second grade, I entered Tower Hill School, a private school in Wilmington, started by duPont families. I continued there through the sixth grade, and spent the seventh and eighth grade at Friends School, also in Wilmington, and the arch rival of Tower Hill. The story line my parents told me for the school switch was because Tower Hill tuition increased.

In the summer of 1950, my father accepted a position in the management of the Indianapolis Transit System as vice-president and general manager. The only connection I had with Indianapolis was that I used to listen to the race.

At the end of August, my parents and I drove cross-country to Indianapolis, and the day after Labor Day I entered at Shortridge High School as a freshman. I went from private schools with enrolments of a few hundred to public education with enrolments of thousands.

Talk about culture shock.

We had lived on 40 acres in the bucolic Delaware countryside that was owned by Crawford H. Greenewalt, the president of the DuPont Company, which assisted in the development of the atomic bomb.

In Indianapolis, we lived on the second floor of a duplex at 38th and Pennsylvania and the landlord lived downstairs.

To say I was a bit miserable is putting it mildly.

Somehow I amazed teachers and administrators and graduated from Shortridge in 1954, and that Fall entered Indiana University despite premonitions by my advisor that I’d never graduate. Regardless of the odds and fraternity life, I gained an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree – a masters in American History. My primary advisor was Dr. R. Carlyle Buley, a Pulitzer award winner.

Entranced by academia, 1960 found me on the staff of Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill. with my then wife of two years, and a year later with a son, Wes. Ironically, one of the students there now lives several blocks from me, Jim Voyles.

Dismayed by the college president, a position of sports editor opened at the local daily newspaper, The Jacksonsville Journal & Courier, which hired me despite my handicap in journalism and sports. (My credentials – student manager of the IU varsity baseball team.)

My seven years with the Illinois newspaper was a fabulous learning experience, and in 1968  I returned to Indianapolis as a general assignment reporter with The Indianapolis News at twice my Illinois salary. My boss was Wendell C. Phillippi, whose family was from Zionsville.

During the 34 years with the Pulliam papers, and subsequently Gannett Newspapers, my assignments included covering city and county government, state courts, the environment beat and the Indianapolis 500, retiring in 2001.

It was a wonderful run and I was privileged to meet and know many great Hoosiers, as well as some scoundrels.  The Pulliams were an extraordinary family to work for and with.

My spouse, Elizabeth (Betsy), whom I met while at The News (she of  The Indianapolis Star),with her daughter, Ayun, and I moved to Zionsville in 1978 after Judge Paul Johnson married us at his home on a rainy June 29 evening while his wife fried salmon patties.

In 2003,  a vacancy opened on the Zionsville Town Council when Lance Lantz resigned to become street superintendent. The four council members were split 2-2 between myself and the other candidate, Guinn Doyle. Town Clerk-Treasurer Beverly Harves broke the deadlock, and I was elected to complete the vacated term.  That May, in the primary I was elected, and in 2007 was re-elected serving until 2011.

Betsy and I, along with several black Labrador retrievers, have lived in our Zionsville log home for 32 years and plan on staying.

My hope in composing this blog is to bring readers in Zionsville and Boone County thorough, impartial and balanced coverage of news which impacts their lives and their families that somehow is missing in the media.

And, thus I continue the search for the elusive truth.

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