Former RB convicted of rape faces resentencing

Updated: September 26, 2003, 5:54 PM ET
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The husband of a rape victim said Friday he's outraged that Florida State coach Bobby Bowden wrote a letter on behalf of the attacker, a former football player who faces resentencing next month.

Michael Gibson, once a running back for the Seminoles, was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for his attack on a woman who was shot, raped, robbed and left for dead in her apartment a few days before Christmas in 1993.

Gibson, 30, received six life sentences. Four were for rape, one was for armed burglary and one was for attempted felony murder.

But the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled in an unrelated case that there was no crime of attempted felony murder, so Gibson is awaiting a new sentencing hearing Oct. 7. He's also serving two 40-year sentences for two other rapes.

John Witherspoon, a South Carolina lawyer who is married to the victim, said he didn't think Bowden had any business writing a letter on Gibson's behalf.

Witherspoon said his wife, who earned her bachelor's degree from Florida State in 1992, was a loyal alumnus who was devastated that Bowden wrote the letter.

"She's hurt and I was pretty incensed," Witherspoon said, adding that the only way Gibson's crime would have been worse is if the victim had died.

"I think the only thing that keeps her going and keeps her sanity in place is knowing that he's [in jail] forever," Witherspoon said.

Kenneth Hooks, a lawyer in Baton Rouge, La., and friend of the victim, protested Bowden's support for Gibson in a letter faxed Friday to the university's inspector general.

"Gibson committed crimes of atrocity against a then-FSU student, now upstanding alumni, well respected attorney and mother of two beautiful children," Hooks wrote. "I am outraged."

Browning Brooks, a spokeswoman for the university, said Friday school officials had no comment on the matter. She said Bowden was out of town and a message seeking comment would be relayed to him.

Bowden sent a "letter of reference" on Gibson's behalf to Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker last month.

"I can only account for what I know about him when I was recruiting him out of North Florida Christian High School and for the time he was on our football team at Florida State University," Bowden wrote.

He wrote Dekker that Gibson was "no problem" when he was on the team but left after the first year.

"It may have been because of his grades," Bowden wrote. "It surely wasn't his conduct."

Bowden concluded by saying he hoped Gibson had learned his lesson in prison and had the support of a loving caring family.

"Thank you for reading my letter and may God direct you in your decision," he finished.

Florida State plays at Duke on Saturday.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press