The defendant was delivered to the front door of the Montgomery County courthouse early yesterday morning in a stretch limousine, looking thinner than usual, a bodyguard/driver trailing in his wake.

No stranger to courtrooms, Mike Tyson found himself in legal hot water again yesterday, facing an exasperated judge who recently ordered him to start making his pending divorce a priority. Why, Judge D. Warren Donohue wanted to know, had Tyson blown off the last two scheduled depositions in Tyson v. Tyson?

Was the former heavyweight boxing champ really home sick at his gated Las Vegas manse on three weeks of doctor-ordered bed rest on Oct. 16, the most recent date he was supposed to be deposed in Washington?

If so, why was he spotted -- at least according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal column "Norm! Vegas Confidential" -- out on the town in Vegas three days later, once courtside at a Lakers-Suns exhibition game and once noshing on kung pao chicken at the trendy eatery Chinois at Caesars Palace?

"Mr. Tyson has represented . . . to this court that he is experiencing a severe viral infection, is severely dehydrated, and, due to such illness, was unable to attend his deposition and is on bed rest," Sanford Ain, a lawyer for Tyson's estranged spouse, argued in a motion. "This is a sham and Mr. Tyson has perpetrated a fraud upon this court."

Tyson lawyer Patrick W. Dragga said his client had indeed been ill but admitted that yes, he had gone to the Lakers-Suns exhibition game at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Oct. 19. He had arrived late and left early, Dragga said. He did not address the kung pao chicken allegation.

Tyson has lived primarily in Las Vegas for more than a year since parting ways with his wife of five years, pediatrician Monica Turner Tyson, 36. Turner, a Washington native, began dating Tyson while he was in prison in Indianapolis on a rape charge in the 1990s, and the couple married in 1997. She is currently in the pediatric residency program at Georgetown University Medical Center and is raising the couple's children -- Rayna, 6, and Amir, 5 -- in their $4 million Bethesda mansion.

Turner filed for divorce in January, citing infidelity. In an affidavit filed in June, she described how she watched as Tyson frittered away more than $140 million of boxing earnings on luxury cars, exotic pet tigers and women. He is $18 million in debt, according to court documents.

Tyson's attorneys have argued that Turner is hardly in dire straits, having salted away more than $17 million of the boxer's earnings during her marriage. Also, she drives a Bentley.

On July 19, Tyson skipped his first deposition because, his attorneys said, he and Turner had agreed on a $10 million settlement on the phone the night before. On Oct. 11, Tyson's lawyers attempted to delay the deposition again, saying Tyson had a doctor's appointment in Florida. Donohue responded: "I think this case needs to get some priority. . . . Tell him to be here on the 16th."

Convinced he was ducking the depositions to avoid finalizing the settlement, Turner's lawyers hired a private investigator to trail Tyson in Las Vegas on Oct. 16 and the days following. In a signed affidavit, the PI said that during his surveillance he saw lots of cars going to and from Tyson's mansion but that "it was very difficult to see who was in the vehicles because most have tinted windows."

In the end, Donohue did not grant Turner's request for a default judgment, which would have awarded her $4 million of the $10 million (Tyson has already paid her $1 million). The boxer agreed to return to town to be deposed on Nov. 22. A trial is set for Dec. 16.

Yesterday morning, Sandy McRoy, 39, a Rockville title company employee, planted herself outside the closed hearing room to wait for the famous man to emerge. When he did, she said, he was trailed by his driver and he was wearing an aqua-color suit, maybe Armani. He looked tired. He had just flown in on the red-eye and had been whisked directly from the airport to the hearing.

McRoy asked him if he would give an autograph for her son.

"He wrote 'To Donald' and either 'Love, Mike Tyson' or 'From Mike Tyson' -- I can't really read his writing," McRoy said. "He looks like he's lost a lot of weight, I guess from all the stress he's under. He gave me a hug. He said, 'C'mon baby, give me a hug.' Or something like that."

Mike Tyson and wife Monica in happier days: Now she's suing for divorce.