Mike Tyson threatened with lawsuit as man punched on plane demands huge payout

San Francisco, California - Mike Tyson's attorney said the former heavyweight champion will not pay a pre-litigation settlement demand of nearly half a million dollars to a man who says he was punched repeatedly in the face by Tyson on a plane at San Francisco International Airport last year.

Mike Tyson is being threatened with a civil lawsuit if he doesn't agree to a settlement with the man he allegedly beat up on a plane last year.
Mike Tyson is being threatened with a civil lawsuit if he doesn't agree to a settlement with the man he allegedly beat up on a plane last year.  © Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Attorney Jake Jondle sent a letter last week on behalf of client Melvin Townsend III to Tyson attorney Alex Spiro, asking for $450,000 "in an effort to resolve this matter prior to protracted litigation."

"In exchange for that amount, Mr. Townsend will provide your client with a mutually-agreeable release that will bar him from filing a future lawsuit, as well as reasonable terms requested by your client," Jondle wrote in the letter seen by The Los Angeles Times. "If we are unable to reach an agreement, we will continue to prepare Mr. Townsend's case for the filing of a lawsuit."

In a statement emailed to The Times, Spiro said his client has no intention of making a "shakedown payment" to Townsend.

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"I have received a shakedown letter related to some instigator's harassment of Mike a year ago and the aftermath," Spiro wrote. "There will be no shakedown payment."

Man punched by Tyson gives his side of the story

Tyson's accuser was reportedly intoxicated and belligerent on the flight before the altercation took place.
Tyson's accuser was reportedly intoxicated and belligerent on the flight before the altercation took place.  © JC Olivera / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The incident between Tyson and Townsend took place April 20, 2022, when Townsend was seated in the row directly behind Tyson on a JetBlue Airways flight set to depart from San Francisco for Florida.

Townsend seemed intoxicated and was allegedly making rude remarks toward passengers, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told The Times in May 2022.

Matt Morgan, an attorney for Townsend, told TMZ last year that Townsend denies reports he threw a water bottle at Tyson. Video posted by TMZ appears to show Tyson standing and reaching over his seat to repeatedly punch Townsend in the face, while at least one other passenger calls for him to stop.

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In his letter last week, Jondle presented Townsend's account of the incident.

"It is our position that Mr. Townsend was excited to see your client on the flight, began discussing the marijuana industry and psychedelic mushrooms with him, and Mr. Tyson became annoyed," Jondle wrote. "Mr. Tyson then reached over the seat, grabbed Mr. Townsend by the shirt collar, and proceeded to repeatedly punch him in the head."

"As a former undisputed heavyweight champion, the potential to cause severe injuries to another person goes without questions. There were several other remedies available to Mr. Tyson, but he chose physical violence."

Tyson threatened with civil lawsuit

Wagstaffe told The Times last year that neither Townsend nor Tyson wanted charges to be filed. The district attorney obliged.

"This case doesn't belong in criminal justice," the DA told The Times in May 2022. "If the parties want to file a civil suit, that can still happen irrespective of this decision."

In the letter dated November 28, Jondle indicated his client intends to do just that if his demand isn't met, citing the ongoing effects the incident had on his health and career. The letter also mentions a 2022 appearance by Tyson on Jimmy Kimmel, during which the retired boxer laughed about the incident but also seems to express remorse over it.

"I was wrong, that should've never happened," Tyson said on the show. "That's me back in my primitive child stages, I shouldn't have done that, but I was just irritated, tired, high, and pissed off."

Cover photo: Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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