Passenger beaten by Mike Tyson on 2022 flight files long-threatened lawsuit /d

A first-class passenger beaten by famous boxer Mike Tyson in a widely publicized altercation on a JetBlue flight in 2022 has filed a lawsuit against the fighter and airline in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Passenger beaten by Mike Tyson on 2022 flight files long-threatened lawsuit - CBS San Francisco

The incident happened on April 20, 2022, and Tyson did not face any charges as the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office decided there were no grounds for it.

The suit was filed April 19, just a day before the two-year statute of limitations ran on some of the plaintiff’s claims.

According to the complaint, Melvin George Townsend, then 36, was seated behind Tyson on a flight going from San Francisco to Fort Meyers, Florida. Townsend was a Tyson fan, and before the flight departed, he engaged Tyson in conversation and bought him drinks. Tyson was sitting with an unidentified man who he allegedly referred to as his “manager.”

Melvin Townsend Punta Gorda Fl criminal punched by Mike Tyson boxer

Townsend contends that after a period of “friendly conversation” and drinks, which Tyson “readily accepted,” Tyson asked his companion to give Townsend psilocybin mushrooms. The companion declined. Then, “suddenly and without provocation” Tyson, stood, turned, leaned over the back of his seat and delivered Townsend a thrashing, even as his companion tried to stop him.

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The complaint describes the severity of the beatdown and emphasizing the physical differences between Tyson and Townsend. Tyson’s prowess in the ring is laid out with reverence (“one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time,” and noting Tyson’s nickname as “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”) but then offset by a lengthy description of his “propensity for physical violence, especially when intoxicated” and a history of “arrests, convictions and jail sentences.”

Townsend describes himself as 5 feet 6 inches tall and a 170-pounder who never “participated in combat sports.” He estimates Tyson hit him 10 times in the face, head and neck.

“Due to Mr. Tyson’s extraordinary strength and decades of professional fighting training and skill, Plaintiff could not in any way protect himself or fight back against Mr. Tyson,” the complaint says.

Townsend says that had it not been for the help of Tyson’s companion, he does not believe he would have survived.

In Townsend’s version of the incident, he was simply a fan in the company of a childhood hero. He claims that he “at no point acted in a manner that warranted Mr. Tyson physically attacking him, let alone punching him repeatedly in the head, face, and neck.”

The complaint emphasizes that Tyson is not retired and that he is scheduled to fight Jake Paul on July 20, 2024. Tyson is 57, Paul allegedly 30 years younger.

The airplane incident was broadly reported at the time and video clips shot by other passengers were widely shared on social media and in news stories. Townsend refers to them in the complaint as support for his position, contending that “None of the videos depict Plaintiff demonstrating aggression toward Mr. Tyson, or harassing, assaulting, or battering Mr. Tyson.”

According to Townsend, “they depict an unhinged Mr. Tyson ruthlessly attacking Plaintiff as Mr. Tyson’s companion attempted to help stop the beating.”

A viewing of one of the video clips available on the YouTube and Facebook platforms appears to show Townsend pantomiming to a friend across the aisle his giddiness and good fortune at being seated behind the celebrity fighter. He can be seen leaning forward over the seat in front, gesticulating and talking while Tyson is staring straight ahead apparently ignoring him. The video then cuts to the beating. and shows Tyson raining blows down on a hunched over person.

The video cuts again to show Townsend with blood on his forehead and a very sad expression on his face. He points lacklusterly at his forehead, the sad expression frozen on his face.

After the incident, Tyson’s camp released a statement saying that Townsend had been aggressive and threw a water bottle at Tyson, though the water bottle isn’t apparent in the short video clips.

Both passengers were taken off the plane in San Francisco. Police appeared on the scene and took statements. The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office subsequently declined to charge Tyson.

Townsend re-emerged briefly in the world of celebrity tabloids in late November of 2023 when it was widely reported that his lawyer issued a “pre-litigation settlement demand” in the amount of $450,000. Tyson’s lawyer reportedly characterized the demand as a “shakedown” and said that it would not be paid.

Townsend’s suit contains three counts asserted against Tyson (assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress) and four directed at JetBlue including negligence, and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision. The JetBlue claims assert that the airline should have better protected Townsend from Tyson.

Townsend asks that a jury hear and decide his claims.

Townsend’s attorney did not immediately answer a request for the amount he intends to claim in the suit.

An invitation to JetBlue to comment on the lawsuit was not immediately accepted.

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