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Former Olympian Sentenced for Fatal Shooting in 1996

Crime: A plea bargain means that, with time served, Henry Tillman will go free in a year.

February 24, 2001|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A dozen or so miles from the Los Angeles Sports Arena where he stood atop the Olympic platform with a gold medal around his neck, former boxer Henry Tillman was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for attempted murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Compton Superior Court Judge Steven C. Suzukawa sentenced Tillman after the 1984 Olympic boxing champion accepted a plea bargain that will require that he serve only a year more in state prison.

Tillman, 40, had been scheduled to go on trial for a second time for the shooting death of one man and the wounding of another outside the Townhouse nightclub near Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 10, 1996.

His first murder trial ended in a mistrial last February after a judge found that the prosecutor failed to fully disclose the criminal record of a police informant who agreed to testify against the boxer.

Because Tillman has been in jail since 1996, the plea bargain offered by prosecutors will leave him a year left to serve, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. "It was an appropriate resolution at this time," she said.

A big, tough Los Angeles kid, Tillman was rescued in the early 1980s from a California Youth Authority lockup by a boxing coach who recognized his talent.

Tillman later would marry the granddaughter of Olympic track great Jesse Owens. He would become a symbol of success in his old neighborhood, where he drove a Mercedes-Benz convertible and frequented restaurants and clubs.

He also assumed a high profile in charitable and community organizations, including the Rebuild L.A. effort after the 1992 riots.

But in 1994, he was arrested for using a bad credit card at the Normandie Club in Gardena. He pleaded no contest.

The next year, he pleaded guilty to using a fake credit card in an attempt to get $800 at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

But before he entered prison, he fired a .38-caliber revolver into a car on a foggy January night in 1996 during a closing-time confrontation outside the Townhouse nightclub.

The driver, Leon Milton, was shot in the chest but recovered. His passenger, Kevin Anderson, was shot in the eye and died from a stroke two days later.

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