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Boxing Czar Don King KOs Feds

A federal jury found boxing promoter Don King innocent of all counts today at his second trial on charges of faking a contract to cheat Lloyd's of London out of $350,000.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on charges against his company, Don King Productions Inc.

"Thank you all very much," King said to the jurors, then shook the hands of each.

The verdict came after a 10-week trial in which prosecutors tried to convince jurors that the defendant who cheerily nodded and smiled at them frequently during the trial was a crook.

Prosecutors alleged that King submitted a fake contract to Lloyd's to qualify for an extra $350,000 after a 1991 bout between Julio Cesar Chavez and Harold Brazier was canceled because Chavez was injured in training.

Defense lawyers had accused prosecutors of abusing the power of government by waging a crusade against King that threatened to tear him down. King has been an icon of the boxing landscape for three decades.

King did not take the witness stand, but his testimony in a 1995 trial on the same nine wire fraud charges figured prominently in the government's case. The 1995 trial ended with a deadlocked jury. The charges would have carried a potential penalty of up to 45 years in prison and a $2.2 million fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Baruch Weiss in closing arguments last week told the jurors to remember that King admitted that it would be wrong and deceptive to submit a fake contract to Lloyd's. Prosecutors alleged that King did just that.

Weiss said it would be fair for the jury to conclude that King either altered the contract himself or ordered someone to do it, because he kept such close tabs on every financial aspect of his business that he even once signed a check worth a nickel.

"Who was responsible for this?" Weiss asked. "Who else but King? Who stood to gain from this?

"But again, those two words are still there. `Wrong' and `deceptive,' and you know, all of King's lawyers and all of King's men just can't change King's own words at the end. `Wrong.' `Deceptive."'

This brought lawyer William Murphy Jr. to his feet.

"Objection. Now we're Humpty Dumpty?" said Murphy, representing Don King Productions Inc., which was added as a defendant in the case after the previous trial.

The moment provided a glimpse of the kind of lively exchanges between defense lawyers and prosecutors that sometimes went on for hours, leaving jurors to complain of being forced to wait in the jury room for long periods with no explanation.

Chavez, former WBC super lightweight champion, testified that King paid him only $80,000 to train for Brazier and never told him about an insurance claim. He said he knew nothing about the insurance policy with Lloyd's that covered his training expenses or that he would not be required to pay the expenses back to King.

King's lawyer, Peter Fleming Jr., told jurors that because Lloyd's representative understood that the insurance policy could also cover money that had been lent to Chavez.

"This is obviously complicated, detailed, smoky, obscure, confusing," Fleming said in his closing statement. "I believe you may find this case to be a case of guesswork, an invitation to speculate.

"You may find that when a page of the contract is changed, that can bother ordinary people, raise some sort of concern, some sort of suspicion. You may find also that the real question is whether the new page is honest and accurate and reflects, shows, the agreement."

"If it is fairly reflective on the first page, on the changed page, the modified page, then you may ask yourself, `Where is the fraud? Where is the crime?"'

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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