Legendary New York Giant Lawrence Taylor pleaded not guilty last week to all of the charges, including a charge of rape in the third degree, in a six-count indictment against him in state court in Rockland County, New York. The indictment stems from an incident at a hotel in Rockland County on May 6, 2010.
It is important to note that Lawrence Taylor is innocent until proven guilty and that an indictment is a set of allegations. Having said that, in today's world of the internet and sports talk radio, the battle in the court of public opinion started the day LT was arrested in Rockland. Indeed, whether LT actually admitted to police that he had sex with the alleged victim is a disputed fact and has been widely misreported in the press (see below).
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES AGAINST LT?
We will summarize them briefly: the two felony counts, each of which is punishable by up to four years in prison, are Rape in the third degree and Criminal sexual act in the third degree. Rape in the third degree is defined as someone being 21 or older (LT) engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under 17 (the alleged victim, only identified as C.F. in the indictment). Criminal sexual act in the third degree is defined with the same age limitations and a charge of oral sexual conduct between the two.
The two Class A misdemeanors, each of which is punishable by up to one year in prison, are Endangering the welfare of a child and Patronizing a prostitute. Endangering the welfare of a child is defined as the defendant (LT) who "knowingly acted in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental and moral welfare of C.F., a female child less than 17 years old." Patronizing a prostitute speaks for itself but essentially accuses LT of paying for a prostitute.
The two Class B misdemeanors, each of which is punishable by up to six months in prison, are both for Sexual abuse in the third degree, which is defined as the defendant (LT) who "subjected another person to sexual contact without the latter's consent." Presumably there are two counts of this Class B misdemeanor, one for sexual intercourse and one for oral sexual conduct, since they are two different crimes under the New York State Penal Law.
WHAT ARE LT'S DEFENSES?
Well, that's a fascinating question. On Mike Francesa's show on WFAN the day after LT was arraigned, LT's attorney, Arthur Aidala, stated that there was "some contact" between LT and the alleged victim, but not sex. In addition, according to published reports, LT's defense may be that he never touched the young girl, but simply pleasured himself in front of her.
DID LT ACTUALLY ADMIT THAT HE PAID FOR SEX WITH A GIRL IN THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AGAINST RASHEED DAVIS, THE ALLEGED PIMP?
Rasheed Davis is accused, in federal court in Manhattan, of sex trafficking by bringing the alleged victim up to the hotel in Rockland County and sending her in to have sex with LT. Indeed, both the victim and Davis have apparently stated that LT gave her $300 and she gave the money to Davis. When Davis was arrested back in the Bronx later that morning, a search of the car found about $300 in cash.
Much more important, arguably, is whether LT actually admitted to having sex with the underage girl. WFAN.com has obtained a copy of the criminal complaint against LT and, while it does state that LT voluntarily waived his Miranda rights and told local Ramapo police that he had taken a car service from Newark Airport to the hotel and met with a girl, it does NOT specifically say that LT said that he engaged in sex acts with the girl and paid her $300 (that claim is in a separate paragraph not necessarily attributable to LT). This latter fact has been wildly misreported in the press and even mistakenly cited by the original judge in LT's case.
WHERE DOES ALL OF THIS LEAVE LT?
Potentially, in plenty of trouble. If LT actually admitted to police that he performed some kind of sex act or acts with this underage girl, it is irrelevant that Taylor thought she was 19. It's a strict liability felony; whether she looked 17 or older (or lied about her age to LT) is irrelevant.
But even if one buys his masturbation defense, he still has probably committed two Class A misdemeanors, at least. If LT "pleasured himself" in front of the girl, that would be Endangering the welfare of a child, according to former Bronx Assistant District Attorney Joe Heinzmann. It would also be Patronizing a prostitute.
And although Rockland County isn't far from New York City, it's a different, more conservative world up there. If LT's attorney can keep this in the multiple misdemeanor range, that would be a good result for LT. But if convicted, for example, of two Class A misdemeanors, there is a good chance that LT will do time even on "only" misdemeanor convictions in conservative Rockland County. If, in fact, LT did admit to law enforcement officials in Ramapo that he did have sex with that woman or it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that such acts occurred, he's in even more trouble and would be looking at serious time.
Lawrence Taylor's next scheduled court appearance is August 24 and the trial should be some time this winter, according to his attorney.
Steve Kallas is a New York City attorney who writes on sports and the law, youth sports and sports in general. More articles by Steve can be found at www.stevekallas.com
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