- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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NEW CITY, N.Y. -- Lawrence Taylor's name will not appear on an online sex offender registry list after he was given Level 1 status in a Rockland County court on Tuesday.
Judge William Kelly heard arguments from the district attorney's office, which requested Level 2 status, and Taylor's attorney Arthur Aidala, who argued for Level 1, the lowest level.
After listening to both sides, Kelly said the main consideration was the likelihood that Taylor was a threat to public safety and would repeat his crime.
"I frankly don't think that is likely," Kelly said, ruling from the bench.
Taylor, who was not present at the hearing, pleaded guilty in January to two counts, sexual misconduct and soliciting a prostitute in the third degree. Last month he was sentenced to six years' probation in his home state of Florida. As a Level 1 offender he will not have his picture in an online database, but Kelly said that given the notoriety of the case, in effect there was very little difference between Level 1 and Level 2 for Taylor.
There are three levels of sex offenders: Level 1 offenders are characterized as being a low risk to the public, Level 2 are medium risk and Level 3 are high risk. People registered as the latter two have their names made available to the public, and authorities can go so far as to alert "vulnerable populations," such as those at a school, nursing home or day care agency, that an offender is living in their neighborhood.
Level 1 offenders must register for 20 years, while the other two levels of offenders must register for the rest of their lives.
Aidala said knowing that he is the lowest level will be a "relief" for Taylor, and that it may make a difference when it comes to sponsorship opportunities in the future. He said Taylor will be a headline guest at a Montclair, N.J., charity golf tournament on June 20, to benefit disabled children.
Taylor was arrested last May in a Rockland County Holiday Inn after a 16-year-old girl and her pimp, Rasheed Davis, were taken into custody. The girl, referred to in the case as C.F., said she had been beaten and forced to go to Taylor's hotel, where they had sex.
On an evaluation sheet, the Rockland County DA assigned Taylor 80 points for details of the crime such as the victim's age and his criminal history. Aidala argued that several mitigating factors would reduce that number below 75, the cutoff for Level 1.
During oral arguments, Aidala said that Taylor had actually been the victim of a scheme to defraud him. Kelly interrupted and said it was hard to keep a straight face while hearing Taylor characterized as a victim, but the judge was similarly unsympathetic to assistant DA Patricia Gunning's contention that because the pimp in the case pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges, Taylor was a higher risk.
"That's nice for the headlines," Kelly said, but he asked what it meant from Taylor's point of view.
Kelly did respond to Aidala's contention that Taylor had not sought out C.F. because of her age and was not targeting underage girls for sex. He noted that Taylor's 5-year-old adopted son, Mali, was not seen to be in any real danger by the court as a result of what took place, which usually happens in sex cases where children are involved.
Ultimately, Kelly determined Taylor's risk level to be 60, within the range of Level 1.
The victim in the case was at Taylor's March hearing with celebrity defender Gloria Allred. Aidala said Monday he has not been notified as to whether C.F. intends to file a civil suit now that the criminal proceedings have concluded.
"Not yet," he said. "I'm sure it's coming."
Taylor getting sex offender status comes on the anniversary of his entry to the NFL. On this date in 1981, he was drafted by the Giants with the second overall pick.
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.
Lawrence Taylor was designated a Level 1 sex offender on Tuesday.