Greg Garrison: Life After Tyson
Sometimes that life-changing event doesn’t happen because you said “yes.”
For Geist attorney-turned-radio-host Greg Garrison, it came because he didn’t say “no” quickly enough.
When Marion County prosecutor Jeff Modisett approached him about acting as a special prosecutor in the rape charges against boxer Mike Tyson, Garrison said he’d do it “when donkeys fly.”
Modisett took that as a “yes.”
Before long, Garrison found himself immersed in a case he knew had potential to turn “very silly, very fast.”
Tyson, then 25 and a former heavyweight champion, had been indicted on sexual assault and three other criminal charges. The allegations stemmed from events during the Indiana Black Expo and Miss Black America pageant in July 1991.
Desiree Washington was Miss Black Rhode Island. She’d gone out with Tyson on July 19 — she’d thought they were going to a party, but then his limousine took her to his room at the Canterbury Hotel. Tyson claimed they’d had consensual sex. Washington said she’d been raped.
The trial began in January and lasted for two weeks.
There were experts, including a reproductive specialist who testified that Washington’s injuries were inconsistent with consensual intercourse.
There were dozens of witnesses scattered across the country — most of the Miss Black America contestants were there during the rehearsal when Tyson met Washington.
There were long hours and long weeks. “I lost weight, I lost sleep, I got sick,” Garrison said. At one point, a doctor examined Garrison’s eardrum hemorrhage in his cousin’s kitchen, getting the attorney well enough to begin the trial.
Ultimately, though, a lot of it came down to Washington, a slender, delicate woman whose testimony had “the kind of credibility that goes with telling the truth” and Tyson, who blew up on the witness stand as Garrison questioned him.
“Once we got him to show his backside,” the cross-examination ended quickly. Garrison had revealed to the jury a Mike Tyson without his celebrity status, a man capable of doing what Washington said he did.
Ten hours after both sides rested their cases, the attorneys were notified that the jury had reached a verdict. When he arrived at the courtroom, Garrison found only Tyson there. As the boxer sat 30 feet away, he made eye contact with Garrison. Garrison got the sense that Tyson knew it was going to be a guilty verdict.
It was. Tyson later was sentenced to six years in prison. He was released after three.
The trial, and the ensuing vortex of interviews, launched Garrison’s second career. Two years after the Tyson verdict, when O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife was found brutally slain, the networks began calling him for interviews.
It eventually led to a regular hour-long Friday show during Simpson’s trials, as well as morning updates the rest of the week. Garrison often recorded these from his bed. “I just didn’t want to get up that early,” he said, adding that his kids referred to them as his “tighty-whitey” interviews.
Through Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVey’s trial and President Bill Clinton’s legal entanglements stemming from the scandal involving former intern Monica Lewinsky, Garrison remained a broadcasting fixture, eventually signing a contract with CBS.
The whole time, he continued to practice law. Today, Garrison jokes that “I’m a 66-year-old man and still working two jobs.”
He begins his day researching information for his radio show, does three hours on WIBC FM 93.1 in the morning then goes to his law office after lunch.
He sees some similarities between broadcasting and the law, and said he often uses his legal skills — critical thinking, asking questions designed to dig out information — on the air.
And though he loves radio — “You gotta be there when the light goes red”, he said — to him it’s lightweight fare compared to the high stakes and high emotion of a legal practice.
“When I fill out the form at the doctor’s office,” he said, “I still put ‘lawyer’ in there.”