- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in court Thursday, stemming from a May 6 arrest for felony statutory rape. He will be sentenced to six years' probation but must register as a sex offender.
He also was ordered to pay $1,300 in fees.
Taylor, who was dressed in black from head to toe, pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting a prostitute and a second count of sexual misconduct in having sex with a woman without consent. Since the victim in the case was 16, by law she was not old enough to give consent.
In court, under oath, Taylor admitted that he had sex with a 16-year-old and he said that he was aware that results of a DNA test identified him.
"She told me she was 19," Taylor said in court.
Sentencing is March 22. That same day, state Supreme Court Justice William Kelly will determine what level of sex offender status Taylor will have.
Taylor's attorney, Arthur Aidala, said he would seek to have Taylor's probation transferred to Florida, where the former player now lives.
An order of protection against Taylor also was renewed. Aidala protested the order of protection, arguing that the girl was a stranger to Taylor.
Aidala said the sex-offender status was non-negotiable but made it clear that Taylor wasn't a sexual predator and would not be labeled as such.
Prosecutor Patricia Gunning said the plea deal was acceptable in part because Taylor had assisted in investigations into human trafficking since he was charged.
"Lawrence Taylor was the end user in the market that creates more [sex traffickers]," Gunning said. "They need to be held accountable. It's a long fall from grace."
Another prosecutor, Arthur Ferraro, said outside court that Taylor "was of assistance in the field of human trafficking in several jurisdictions and with federal authorities."
Taylor did not speak to reporters after the proceedings.
"He could have taken a much more aggressive road but he decided it was in the best interest of he and his family and the young woman to put this behind him," Aidala said.
Taylor's business manager, Marc Lepselter, said that "sometimes in life you have to make the best of a tough situation. I think that's apropos in this case."
"Unfortunately in a lot of ways, this extinguished the positive strides he has made since 1998," Lepselter said. "I'm proud of how he handed it. I'm hopeful he'll be able to go forward from this point."
Harry Carson, his former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, was in the courtroom and gave Taylor a supportive greeting when he arrived.
"I've always seen a distinction between Lawrence Taylor and LT," Carson said.
"The whole LT persona, to me that's an act," Carson said. "I'm here for Lawrence Taylor. I'm not here for LT. ... Once he went through some of the stuff he went through, he realized that was a hindrance to himself and his family."
In New York, ignorance of a person's age is not a defense against statutory rape. The age of consent in New York is 17.
Taylor was arrested early in the morning of May 6 at a Holiday Inn in Montebello, N.Y. Police said they were led to his hotel room by a 16-year-old runaway who had allegedly been forced into prostitution by Rasheed Davis.
Davis pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking, while Taylor pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree rape, patronizing a prostitute and endangering the welfare of a child. The rape charge carried a maximum of four years in jail.
At the time of the incident, Ramapo town supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence alleged that Taylor paid $300 for sex, which Taylor later admitted to. Taylor posted the $75,000 bail later that day.
Aidala on Dec. 8 asked Kelly to dismiss the charges on grounds that Taylor's Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the hotel room was searched upon his arrest. Physical evidence, including condoms, was recovered in the search. Kelly denied the request.
Taylor led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles, in 1987 and 1991. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Ferraro said on Dec. 8 that Taylor had been offered a plea deal which included six months in jail and 10 years' probation if he pled guilty to a felony, but he also would have needed to register as a sex offender. At the time, Aidala said the terms were unacceptable.
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi and The Associated Press was used in this report.