Don King Was Convicted of Manslaughter After Killing an Employee Who Owed Him $600

Don King is a controversial figure and legendary boxing promoter. The celebrity has found himself in many sticky situations over his time in the public eye, particularly the time he was convicted of manslaughter.

Don King in front of a blurred background
Don King | Desiree Navarro/Getty Images

King killed a man over $600

King is the fifth child of Clarence and Hattie King, according to ESPN. He was born on August 20, 1931, in Cleveland, Ohio. Clarence died in a steel plant explosion when King was 10 years old and Hattie used the insurance money to move her family to a middle-class area of Cleveland. She supported her family by selling pies and roasted peanuts.

King, and his brothers, promoted sales and gambling by putting a number in each bag of peanuts. That was the start of King’s involvement in gambling. He attended college for only one year. He dropped out and started controlling a numbers racket in Cleveland’s ghetto. 

King was still in the numbers game in 1966, according to Sportscasting. On April 20, he got into a disagreement with an employee, named Sam Garrett. King claimed Garrett owed him $900 while Garrett said he only owed $600. There was a fight in the street.

Film Daily states, “King was witnessed stomping/kicking Sam’s head at least three times, and others also report having seen him beat Sam with a gun. The man’s last words, according to witnesses, were, ‘I’ll give you the money Don.'” King reportedly had to be pulled off Garrett by two detectives. Garrett died five days later. 

King served less than for years in prison

King had his day in court after being arrested for killing Garrett. He said he acted in self-defense, claiming that Garrett followed him out of a bar and threatened his life. He claimed he returned kicks from Garrett but never actually kicked him or pistol-whipped him. However, the detectives who apprehended King testified that they saw him kick Garrett in the head. 

The jury deliberated for four hours and convicted King of second-degree murder. That verdict could have kept King in prison for the rest of his life. The verdict was later reduced to voluntary manslaughter. King served three years and 11 months in Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio. 

Garrett was not the first person King killed 

Garrett wasn’t the first person King killed. King was heavily involved in the numbers game back in 1954. He had a few gambling houses and the story goes that Hillary Brown was allegedly trying to rob one of these establishments. King shot and killed Brown. 

When the case went to court, King claimed that he killed Brown out of self-defense. The court agreed with him and let him go free with a ruling of justifiable homicide. 

Murder is not the only charge King has faced

King killed Brown and Garrett before he ever entered the world of boxing promotion. Changing careers did not save him from controversy, though. 

King has promoted some of the best boxers to ever fight. He promoted Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, George Forman, and Roy Jones Jr. King has been very successful as a promoter and he reaped the benefits of that lucrative business. But, that did not save him lawsuits. 

Many fighters he promoted accused and sued King for stealing money. Mike Tyson, for example, sued King for $100 million for cheating him out of a lot of money. According to Sportscasting, Tyson called King “ruthless,” “deplorable,” and “greedy.” Tyson’s case was settled for $14 million out of court. Most of the other cases were settled out of court.

King has also been charged with tax evasion but he has never been convicted. 

In 1983, Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes pardoned King for his crimes. King has retired from boxing and living a life of luxury with a net worth of about $150 million. 

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