In a 1977 game between the Lakers & Rockets, Kermit Washington was suspended for 26 games after sucker punching Rudy Tomjanovich in the face. John Feinstein’s book The Punch recalls the incident:
On that night, Washington said that he just reacted, throwing the punch without knowing who was coming toward him.
“I saw something from the corner of my eye — it was Rudy running at me 100 miles an hour,” Washington said. “And I swung and that was a mistake that I made in judgment.”
Tomjanovich, who crumpled to the floor, almost died that night of injuries that were akin to being thrown from a car going 50 miles per hour. His skull was dislocated and spinal fluid was leaking from his brain. He recalled being able to taste the fluid in his mouth.
The damage sustained ultimately contributed to ending Tomjanovich’s career, but in a classy move the two agreed to meet for a USA Today interview/photo shoot in 2002. They discussed the incident and Tomjanovich forgave Washington.
Now forgiveness is off the table, at least where the courts are concerned. From the Daily News:
Washington’s Sixth Man Foundation funneled money slated to fund medical services for African kids with HIV and used it instead to pay for vacations, plastic surgery for his girlfriend and personal expenses.
Washington, 66, was sentenced to six years in federal prison and was ordered to pay back $967,158 by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays. He pleaded guilty in December to two counts of making a false statement in a tax return and one count of aggravated identity theft. He was also found to have fraudulently used the identity of someone living in Oregon to maintain a base of operations for the fake charity.