SPORTS BRIBERY: Boxer sentenced in fight fix

Thomas Williams, right, arrives at court for sentencing for fixing a fight.

Former heavyweight boxer Thomas “Top Dawg” Williams was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison for throwing a fight in August 2000 at Paris Las Vegas.

“You took the easy way out, and you broke the law, and you’re going to have to pay the penalty for that,” U.S. District Judge James Mahan told the defendant.

A jury convicted Williams, 35, and matchmaker Robert Mitchell, 42, in November of conspiracy and sports bribery charges. The case marks the first successful prosecution of fight fixing in Nevada.

The jury determined that Williams received between $5,000 and $10,000 for throwing his Aug. 12, 2000, fight against Richie Melito Jr. Melito knocked Williams out in the first round of the fight, which was on a Don King-promoted card that featured a WBA heavyweight title bout between Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz.

Jurors found that Mitchell, whose sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, conspired to fix fights from March 1995 until the Melito fight. They also found that bribes of more than $70,000 were paid during that time.

In a court document filed prior to Friday’s hearing, Assistant Federal Public Defender Kevin Tate argued that Williams “was ensnared into this case by savvy boxing promoters, managers and agents who sought to exploit his misfortunes and need for money by offering him the Melito fight on short notice.”

“Thomas Williams went to the eighth grade and knew no other means of economic survival other than the sport of boxing, however modest the payday might be for a fight,” Tate wrote.

According to the document, Williams took the Melito fight because he needed a job and the $4,000 he was to be paid.

“He did not take the fight to advance the career of Richie Melito, and there was never any evidence of a bribe being paid to him before or after the fight,” Tate wrote.

At the sentencing hearing, Tate said no wagers were placed on the fight, which drew little interest. The defense attorney urged Mahan to place his client on probation. More about situs poke online qq

“He’s the most minor person in this conspiracy,” Tate said.

According to the document authored by Tate, Richie Melito Sr. conceived a plan in which 11 of his son’s fights were fixed. Neither of the Melitos has been charged.

Tate argued that those who benefitted from the scheme to fix Melito fights either were not prosecuted or were sentenced to probation. Sending Williams to prison, the attorney told Mahan, “does not clean up boxing.”

“Mr. Williams essentially has been destroyed — not by the conviction but by the mere allegation,” Tate said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Johnson described Williams as a manipulator who took advantage of boxing, the criminal justice system and “everyone he’s ever been around.”

“He takes no responsibility for the seriousness of his actions,” the prosecutor said.

Johnson, who recommended a 21-month sentence, argued that a significant prison term would help deter other fighters who might be faced with bribes.

Mahan gave Williams, who plans to appeal his conviction, until April 18 to surrender to prison. Tate said his client lives in Maryland, where he earns $6.50 an hour as a laborer.

After completing his prison term, Williams will be supervised for three years. During that time, he may not work in the boxing industry and must perform 100 hours of community service.

“If you’re destroyed, Mr. Williams, it’s a self-inflicted wound,” Mahan said. “You did this yourself. If you’re a victim, you’re a victim of greed.”

Boxing manager Robert Mittleman, who cooperated with the government in the bribery probe, pleaded guilty to two counts of sports bribery and one count of bribery of a public official.

He was sentenced to probation with six months of house arrest. He also was fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.

Mittleman received $1,000 for helping arrange the August 2000 fix. He also said he arranged for Williams to lose a fight to Brian Nielson on March 31, 2000, in Esbjerg, Denmark. Nielsen won that fight by a third-round knockout.

Abdullah Mohammad, a professional boxing manager and agent, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sports bribery and was sentenced to probation.

Johnson said sports bribery cases are “innately difficult” to prosecute “because of the individual nature of what the athletes do.”

Determining whether an athlete accepted a bribe involves getting inside the person’s head, the prosecutor said.