Somber and openly apologetic, Olympic champion hurdler Edwin Moses sat with his wife at a three-minute press conference today and said he was "mortified" but not guilty of allegations he solicited an undercover officer posing as a prostitute.
Meanwhile, the deputy city attorney for the City of Los Angeles said today Moses had not been charged officially and no decision had been made on whether he will be, despite Monday's announcement that counts of "soliciting an act of prostitution" and "possession of less than an ounce of marijuana" had been filed.
Although aides of the two-time gold medal winner had indicated he would tell the full story of what he was doing on Sunset Boulevard at 3:15 a.m. Sunday when he was arrested, Moses, 29, made only a brief statement of his innocence before saying his attorney had persuaded him to decline comment for now.
"I'm truly mortified by the events of the last few days and I'm absolutely confident that after a full investigation of the matter the responsible authorities will see that the allegations made against me are mistaken," Moses said. His wife Myrella, a native of West Germany, sat in a white dress on one side of him; his attorney, Harold Lipton, sat on the other.
"I do not suggest that anyone is at fault," said Moses. "I realize that the charges are very minor, but the mere fact of the allegations has caused me a great deal of distress. I worked hard all of my life to build a very positive image and reputation and I'm grateful that my family, friends and admirers are behind me. I'm very sorry for any discomfort that I caused to my wife, my friends, family and all my fans and supporters, including my compatriots in the athletic world. And you can be sure that I will fight these charges of any misconduct and I know that I have done nothing wrong."
A little more than a hour after Moses had read his statement, Mike Wilkinson, deputy city attorney, said the case remained under investigation and no criminal charges had been filed against Moses.
Wilkinson, who announced Monday that Moses had been charged, said today, "As of now, the case is still being investigated for (possible) filing . . . I very much regret being the one passing along the erroneous information. Information was passed to me which I interpreted as saying the case had been filed."
The athlete's manager, Gordon Baskin, has said Moses was only joking with the undercover officer and had no intention of picking her up.
Along with Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, Moses recently appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as cowinner of the magazine's sportsman of the year award. He lives in Laguna Beach, about 35 miles from the scene of his arrest, and is estimated to have earned about $1 million last year.
ABC-TV said today it had postponed an award presentation to Moses, then later said it had reconsidered and would go ahead and present Moses as its "Wide World of Sports" athlete of the year on Sunday before its Super Bowl coverage.
According to police, Moses was driving a gray 1985 Mercedes with the license plate "OLYMPYN" when he offered money in exchange for sex with a female undercover officer. Police said they found a small amount of marijuana in his car. Both soliciting and possession of marijuana are misdemeanors.
Baskin has told reporters Moses does not use marijuana and thinks a previous occupant of the car, such as a parking lot attendant, left it there.
Police said Moses was one of 82 men arrested in a three-day sweep by the department's "trick task force." First offenders are usually fined $150 to $300 and put on probation, a city attorney said.
"It had been my intent to discuss this matter fully," Moses said in a conference room of a Los Angeles airport area hotel, "but due to the advice of my attorneys at this time I cannot say more. We do not wish to try this entire case in front of the media, and that's all I have to say."