SUFFERN, New York (Reuters) - Former NFL great Lawrence Taylor was charged on Thursday with third-degree rape of a 16-year-old girl brought to him in a New York suburb by a pimp, and could face up to four years in prison.
Taylor paid $300 to have sex with the underage girl in the early hours of Thursday morning in Room 160 of the Holiday Inn hotel in Montebello, a village about 25 miles north of New York City, local police said.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Taylor, 51, is denying all charges and will plead not guilty, his lawyer told a judge in the town of Ramapo, which includes Montebello.
Taylor, known as “LT” when he starred with the New York Giants from 1981 to 1993, was handcuffed and wore a black shirt and blue jeans in the Ramapo courtroom as he stood to hear the charges.
“Every fact is at issue,” lawyer Arthur Aidala told reporters outside the courtroom. “Lawrence will fight every charge. Like every celebrity, Mr. Taylor is a target.”
The former linebacker, held in the town jail overnight, was released on $75,000 bail by Town Justice Arnold Etelson. The two-time Super Bowl winner did not speak to reporters who crowded into the parking lot outside the town hall.
Taylor, married and the father of three children, owns a home in Pembroke Pines, Florida, and was in New York to make a corporate appearance, his friend and business partner Mark Lepselter told reporters.
His next court appearance on charges brought by the victim identified only as “CF” was set for June 10.
Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence told a news conference in the parking lot that the girl had been reported by her uncle as a runaway in March.
St. Lawrence said she had been delivered to Taylor shortly after midnight by a man identified as Rasheed Davis, who was arrested by New York City police after the victim communicated with her uncle after the incident.
Davis faces charges in New York, St. Lawrence said, with Ramapo reserving the right to pursue charges against him.
“CF” was 15 years old when she was reported missing by her uncle, and has since turned 16, the town supervisor said.
Taylor was charged with an E felony of engaging in a sexual act with someone under the age of 17. He also was charged with a misdemeanor of soliciting a prostitute that carries a maximum sentence of one year.
Taylor was one of the most dominating defensive players in the history of the National Football League.
An All-Pro in each of his first nine seasons, the second overall draft pick from the University of North Carolina was NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times and league MVP in 1986, the season that produced the first of two Super Bowl titles he won with the Giants.
“Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen,” former Oakland Raiders coach and broadcaster John Madden told ESPN.com in a 2007 article on the best athletes of the century. Taylor was ranked No. 40.
Admired on the gridiron for his strength, speed and ability to rush the quarterback, Taylor was troubled off the field by drug and alcohol problems.
In his autobiography, “LT Living on the Edge,” Taylor said he started using drugs during his second NFL season and would avoid testing detection by using urine from other teammates.
Two failed drug tests, however, brought him an automatic four-game suspension.
Following his retirement, he was arrested three times for drug-related offenses before entering a rehabilitation program and proclaiming his drug and alcohol woes a thing of the past.
Police found no evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in the hotel room and said Taylor had cooperated with authorities.
In recent years Taylor has worked as a sports broadcaster, embarked on an acting career and competed on the eighth season of the ABC television show “Dancing With The Stars.” (Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta, Walden Siew in New York and Josh Hargreaves in Toronto; Editing by Xavier Briand)
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