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He stood at the podium in a gray suit that was pulled taut across his shoulders, stretching his neck, gesturing with his hands. In the beginning he was meek and mild, but not for long.

In Mike Tyson's battles with himself, the dark side almost always wins.Again and again it had come up in the court room, from the defense and the prosecution and in Desiree Washington's description of the night she was raped: the notion of two Tysons - one gentle, one violent; one civil, one savage.

Thursday, for those seeking to keep him out of jail, that split personality was presented as evidence that there is something in Tyson worth saving. For those seeking to lock him up, it was the mark of the duplicitous schemer who lured an 18-year-old to his room to be preyed upon.

But no description could match the real thing in performance.

Three times during these long legal proceedings Tyson testified on his own behalf - in front of a grand jury, during his trial and at his sentencing hearing. Three times he buried himself.

Thursday, it was obvious to all what Tyson should have said when he was called on to speak before Judge Patricia Gifford passed sentence: I'm sorry. I won't do it again. It was wrong. Rape is wrong. I'm going to change.

He started fine, but then the adrenaline started pumping and Tyson started rolling his head the way he used to before the opening bell of a fight. Ten minutes later his twisted soul was laid bare for all to see.

"The situation that occurred I'd like to apologize to you for,' " he began. "I'm not saying I'm guilty of what I'm convicted of. I didn't rape anyone or try to rape anyone by any means. But I'm living in my situation and I'm trying to deal with it.

"When I came to Indianapolis, my conduct was very crass. I agree with that. If anyone did take offense, I'd like to apologize for that.

"Rape is a bad thing," he said without acknowledging guilt. "It's an extremely bad thing.

"I'm slightly afraid. I'm afraid because I'm not guilty of these crimes, your honor."

Then he apologized some more, to the judge, to the press. He said he would have apologized to his victim had she been in court. "I'm sorry if Miss Washington took it personally.

"I got carried away and I just got into a situation that got way out of hand," he said.

(Those with very short memories should be reminded at this point just what that "situation" was. Last July 19 in his Indianapolis hotel room, Tyson pinned Washington to his bed with his forearm, peeled off her clothes and raped her, saying, "Don't fight me, mommy," as she whimpered beneath him.)

Tyson said that he was the real victim, not Washington.

"The lady said how sophisticated she was. Hard to believe that if she was sophisticated that I could fool her . . . When I'm in the ring," he continued, "I break their ribs, I break their jaws. That's hurting somebody. I didn't hurt anybody. I don't see no bruises (on Washington). I didn't see any black eye or broken ribs."

And then he offered a final image, one that his supporters outside the courtroom have already embraced without question: "I'm crucified. I'm humiliated. I'm humiliated worldwide.

"Ma'am," the self-described baddest man on the planet said to Judge Gifford, "I'm prepared to deal with whatever you have to offer me."

Thursday night, when the cell door closed behind him, Tyson no doubt still saw himself hanging from the cross, still churned with hatred toward his accusers.

Three days or three years in prison isn't going to change that. And all of the cold legal maneuvering in the days to come - maneuvering that may yet set him free - won't be able to obscure what was made plain these past weeks in courtroom No. 4.

Mike Tyson's demons are in control. He is a frightening, angry man who knows no bounds.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service