The man who was struck by Mike Tyson in an altercation captured in an online video during a JetBlue flight wants the boxing champ to pay him $450,000, if not, he promises to sue Tyson.
Attorneys representing Tyson bit back saying the man, Melvin Townsend, is attempting to “shakedown” the retired prizefighter. Townsend is requesting nearly 5 percent of Tyson’s estimated $10 million net worth.
In April 2022, Townsend was on a flight from San Francisco to Florida when his lawyers say he was “viciously assaulted” by Tyson.
Video of the exchange shows an intoxicated North Carolinian pestering Tyson while they were mid-air in first class and several times panning to the camera. His friend, who is recording the incident that is “widely available on the Internet,” is laughing at the man, noting that he was bothering the champ for a significant amount of time while he was trying to rest before he snapped.
Townsend is seen sitting in a chair behind Tyson, panning to the camera, as the fighter seems to become more and more “annoyed” as Townsend pressed him about the “marijuana industry and psychedelic mushrooms.” Tyson has his own brand of cannabis and has spoken publicly about how psychedelic mushrooms helped his mental state. Townsend’s lawyers insist the interaction was innocent and that the inquisitive fan was just “excited” to meet the celebrity.
But Tyson it seems was not in the mood to be bothered, his lawyers say, but an intoxicated Townsend who kept provoking Tyson. The result was a punch from Tyson, it seems to get the man to back off.
“As a former undisputed heavyweight champion, the potential to cause severe injuries to another person goes without question,” wrote Jake Jondle, the lawyer representing Townsend on the case, according to the New York Post.
The attorney continued, “There were several other remedies available to Mr. Tyson, but he chose physical violence” before adding that Tyson knew he “was wrong,” and had said in an interview since the altercation on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” nighttime talk show that it “never should’ve happened.”
“That’s me back in my primitive child stages,” Tyson said. “But I was just irritated, tired, high, and pissed off. S–t happens.”
Tyson released a statement in 2022 that read, “Unfortunately, Mr. Tyson had an incident on a flight with an aggressive passenger who began harassing him and threw a water bottle at him while he was in his seat.”
As a result of the “Hotboxin’” host’s rash decision, the lawyer states that his client immediately suffered damages including “severe headache and neck pains.” He also said that Townsend did not have insurance at the time and was thus unable to get medical help after the assault.
The attorney also said that his client lost “several jobs due to the unfortunate notoriety he experienced” and hopes that the six-figure settlement will help him navigate therapy, his newfound PTSD from the incident, and regular medical treatment for his head and neck trauma. He also says the money will help him pay for medicine needed in his aftercare.
Should the 57-year-old accept the settlement terms, Townsend will no longer have the option to pursue any further legal action against him.
Attorney Alex Spiro is representing Tyson in this case. He said that the boxer would not be entertaining the settlement suggestion.
“I have received a shakedown letter related to some instigator’s harassment of Mike a year ago and the aftermath,” he said, adding, “There will be no shakedown payment.”
Many saw the potential for a lawsuit immediately after the incident made headlines.
“That’s always a risk being a celebrity. You have deep pockets, fame, notoriety and could result in a payday,” said David Sharifi, Esq., an attorney with LA Tech & Media Law Firm.
While Townsend is gearing up for a civil complaint, authorities have declined to press charges. San Francisco Police detained both Townsend and Tyson and said that the alleged victim “provided minimal details of the incident and refused to cooperate further.”
Tyson has radically changed his persona over the last decade, becoming a media darling, a Broadway star, and a podcaster. However, 30 years ago, the boxer seemed to be out of control, spending time in prison for a rape conviction and the assault of a motorist.
According to the boxer, he was arrested 40 times before he was 12 years old and boxing helped him manage his rage.
In 1992, he was incarcerated following a conviction for rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington in Indiana. His sentence included six years of imprisonment and four years of probation, with his release occurring in 1995.
Other arrests include him accidentally driving his Ferraro through a glass window, fraud, grand theft, and burglary, among other charges.
Townsend also hA had his share of run-ins with the law.
In 2018, he was convicted of breaking into someone’s property, taking their trailer, and attaching it to his pickup truck. In another incident, he was caught in possession of oxycodone.
Townsend ended up spending a total of 35 months in prison, with two separate stints of 20 months and 15 months.