Will Lawrence Taylor's Past Haunt Him?

Lawrence Taylor's previous brushes with the law probably wouldn't come into play should the rape case against him go to a jury trial, but they could work against him if his lawyers try to reach a plea bargain with authorities, according to CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford.

The former New York Giant great, 51, is charged with third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute. Police say he paid $300 and had sex with a 16-year-old runaway who police say was forced into prostitution by a man who beat her before taking her to Taylor's hotel room in a northern New York City suburb. The legal age of consent in New York State is 17.

The go-between, Rasheed Davis, a 36-year-old parolee, was also arrested, on charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Taylor's lawyer, Arthur Aidala, told reporters after Taylor was released on $75,000 bond that his client "is charged with rape. Lawrence Taylor did not rape anybody." He faces a possible five years in prison if convicted.

Taylor, a National Football League Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl winner, is considered one of the greatest defensive players in pro history -- a man who redefined the sport with fearsome pass rushes.

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But, remarked CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor, the same reckless aggression Taylor brought to the field often continued off it, with three arrests on drug possession accusations and one last year for allegedly fleeing the scene of an accident.

Taylor has tried to rehabilitate his image in recent years, Glor observes, with appearances on "Dancing with the Stars" and the A&E documentary, "Fame and Recovery."

Still, his prior arrests could get in his way as the rape case plays out, Ford told "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez Friday.

"If it goes to trial," Ford said, "the jury probably won't hear at all about them, because they're unrelated to this. But his prior problems could be a difficulty for him if they're trying to work out a deal for him, because the prosecutor might say, 'Alright. Look. She looked older than 16, so we're willing to give you some help on that. Maybe we'll cut it down to probation or no jail time. But the fact that he's been in trouble before, it's a little bit harder to get a better deal."

What if Taylor didn't know how young the girl was when he allegedly committed the crime?

Ramapo Chief of Police Peter Brower wouldn't to reporters Thursday about whether Taylor knew the girl's age, but he did say, "Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual's age."

Ford explained to Rodriguez, "The law says if you were ignorant about that fact, that's unfortunate. It's your fault. You are charged. The individual is charged with making sure, if you're going to have sexual relations with somebody, they are, indeed, above the age of consent."

And, if authorities can prove Taylor had intercourse with the girl, it could spell big trouble for him, Ford notes, pointing out that, "In New York, as in most jurisdictions, (it's) what they call a strict liability statute. It says, if you have sexual intercourse with somebody who is underage, and in New York, 16 is underage, it's a crime. Third-degree felony. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Even if she consented."

In New York, Ford continued, a 16-year-old simply isn't considered old enough to give consent to have sexual intercourse, even if two people are romantically involved so, "If you engage in sexual intercourse with somebody who is 16, you're in trouble."
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