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May 6, 2010

NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor charged with rape of teenager in New York

This new AP story, which is headlined "Ex-NFL star Lawrence Taylor charged with NY rape," provides the latest sad and disturbing story at the intersection of sports stars and crime.  Here are the basics:

Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was charged Thursday with raping a 16-year-old runaway in an encounter that police said was arranged by a man who beat her up before driving her to Taylor's suburban hotel room while she texted her uncle for help.

Taylor, the 51-year-old former New York Giant who has faced drug and tax evasion charges in the past, paid the girl $300 for sex in a Holiday Inn, where he was arrested early Thursday, said Christopher St. Lawrence, supervisor of the town of Ramapo.

Ramapo Chief of Police Peter Brower said Taylor was cooperative when police woke him up around 4 a.m. Taylor was arraigned Thursday on charges of third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute. "I'm not that important," Taylor told a scrum of media after being released on $75,000 bail.

His attorney, Arthur Aidala, said Taylor is a "loving family man" who did not have sex with the teenager. "My client did not have sex with anybody," Aidala said. "Lawrence Taylor did not rape anybody."

Brower would not comment on whether Taylor knew the girl's age; third-degree rape is a charge levied when the victim is under the age of consent, which is 17 in New York. "Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual's age," Brower said....

Police said the girl was reported missing by her family in March and had been staying with a 36-year-old parolee, Rasheed Davis, in the Bronx. The two met a few weeks ago at a Bronx bus stop, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. "He chats her up. She explains she doesn't have a place to stay. He provides one," Browne said.

Davis, who was arrested on charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault and endangering the welfare of a child, then forced her to perform sexual favors for others, authorities said.

Early Thursday morning, Davis punched and kicked her, drove her to the hotel against her will and told her she had to have sex with Taylor, police said.  When she refused, Davis handed her over to Taylor, who sexually assaulted her, they said.  Taylor paid her $300, which she gave to Davis, police said.

On the way to Suffern, the girl sent text messages to her uncle spelling out what was happening, Browne said. The uncle then went to the NYPD, he said.

I find almost as disturbing as the facts of this case the New York state sentencing realities apparently surrounding the charges that LT is facing.  According to this New York Times article, for "the prostitution charge, a misdemeanor, he faces a year maximum in jail. The maximum sentence for third-degree rape, a felony, is four years."  

In other words, LT appears to be facing a maximum state sentence of no more than 5 years for raping a teenage prostitute.  (Meanwhile, under current federal sentencing statutes, a loner who simply downloaded via computer some images of this sex offense would be facing a mandatory minimum sentence of no less than 5 years simply for receiving these images.)  Perhaps there can and will be more charges forthcoming as the investigation unfolds.  But I find troublesome the notion that the allegations of rape here, if proven true, do not allow for a more significant sentence.

May 6, 2010 at 07:44 PM | Permalink

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"In other words, LT appears to be facing a maximum state sentence of no more than 5 years for raping a teenage prostitute. (Meanwhile, under current federal sentencing statutes, a loner who simply downloaded via computer some images of this sex offense would be facing a mandatory minimum sentence of no less than 5 years simply for receiving these images.) Perhaps there can and will be more charges forthcoming as the investigation unfolds. But I find troublesome the notion that the allegations of rape here, if proven true, do not allow for a more significant sentence."

I concur.

Posted by: N/A | May 6, 2010 8:14:24 PM

LT will probably wind up serving less time than Plax. My guess is that they get him to plead, and he turn's state's evidence to seal the conviction on the pimp. Forcing kids into prostitution, at some point, needs to be a capital offense (number of victims/number of acts).

Posted by: federalist | May 6, 2010 10:15:21 PM

Doug.

"But I find troublesome the notion that the allegations of rape here, if proven true, do not allow for a more significant sentence."

But that has always been the point, so I don't know why you are troubled by it. Going after child porn downloaders is not and never has been about protecting children. It's about looking tough and filling prison cells. NY is by no means unusual. There was a case where I live where a 30 year old man was brought up on multiple charges of raping two 13 year old girls, convicted, and the judge gave him five years *probation*. And no one said a peep because the entire community was obsessed about keeping "predators" from living with 1000 feet of a school (of which the facts showed there were actually none at the present time who even fit that criteria.)

Expecting rationality in this debate is irrational.

Posted by: Daniel | May 6, 2010 11:21:15 PM

The reason LT is facing a max of 5 years on the rape charge is that he is not being charged with first-degree rape (by force and w/out consent), but only with third-degree (statutory) rape -- sex with a person under 17. Of course the allegations, as stated in the article, make out a charge of first-degree rape, but LT is only being charged (so far) with third-degree rape.

Why?

1. The third-degree rape charge essentially only requires proof that they had sex. If so, and if the victim is 16, he is guilty.

2. The first-degree rape charge requires proof of forcible compulsion. The key evidence to proving that charge would be the victim, who apparently is a 16-year-old who, the story suggests, has been working as a prostitute. (Of course we don't know the real facts; perhaps that is false, and even if true perhaps she was forced into doing so.) Thus the prosecution may have decided her credibility is poor (even if they believe her; even if she is telling the truth) and may have opted for the lesser, easy-to-prove charge.

Another weird wrinkle: the article states that ignorance of the victim's age is not a defense, even when the victim is 16 and the age of consent is 17. Many commentators would claim that law is unfair: some 16-year-olds could well appear (and even have fake IDs) above the age of consent. For younger victims (say, 12 years old), many commentators think it is right to create strict liability as to age; but as to older victims that seems less justified.

But of course that does not look like the real injustice here, if the allegations are well-founded. So what's going on? Why does New York have a statutory rape law that (perhaps unjustly) imposes strict liability for having sex with a 16-year-old when the age of consent is 17? And why is LT being charged with that law when it looks like the allegations are those of first-degree (forcible) rape?

Here's my (speculative) guess: NY prosecutors want to keep the statutory rape law a strict liability offense (as to the victim's age) even for older victims (those, say, who are almost 17), so that they can use that "easy-to-prove" charge to convict defendants in cases of forcible rape, when the evidence of forcible rape will be hotly contested. Thus, the "strict liability" as to age for a 16-year-old victim may not reflect a belief that strict liability is really appropriate for consensual sex with a 16-year-old, but rather a judgment that this easy-to-prove charge is very helpful in getting convictions in forcible rape cases that might otherwise be hard to prove.

Posted by: Jonathan Witmer-Rich | May 7, 2010 10:31:26 AM

Professor Berman,
You really lose credibility by lamenting the fact that someone only looking at pictures gets longer than what LT may get for his offense. It's apples and oranges. LT is charged with CONSENSUAL sex with a minor (which is statutory rape)...people who look at pictures and videos of children who CANNOT GIVE CONSENT (most child porn pictures are of children less than 12 years of age) SHOULD get longer sentences. I have read articles which tell of law enforcement who have nightmares because you can hear the children screaming from the abuse in these videos. If your problem is with the short sentences for statutory rape, say that, but to equate the harms shows your undefensible defense of people who prey on children (and yes, even those who "just look" at pictures are preying on innocent NON-CONSENSUAL children). You really make me sick with your defense of these people.

Posted by: anon | May 7, 2010 10:50:20 AM

anon: "LT is charged with CONSENSUAL sex with a minor (which is statutory rape)..."

me: except that the law deems that child cannot consent - hence, he's being charged with non-forceable sex. the facts of the case do seem to suggest that there was force applied by someone. in any case, a 51 year old who has even non-forceable sex with a 16 year old shouldn't complain when branded an icky perv.

anon: "people who look at pictures and videos of children who CANNOT GIVE CONSENT (most child porn pictures are of children less than 12 years of age) SHOULD get longer sentences"

me: except that the law isn't written that way - if hypotethically there was a hidden camera filming the alleged attack, assuming it was unknown to the perp - say placed by the hotel owners to spy on their guests, icky pervs in possession of the would be subject to the same mandatory minimum term as the icky pervs with the videos of very young children. the fact is that someone who possessed video of that crime would get more prison time than the perp.

you can call it apples and oranges based on the fact that the prosecutors tend to only go after the worst offenders with the mandatory minimum cases. but even comparing apples to apples, you get more time watching video of someone molesting a child than you do molesting a child yourself in the state where i practice. and there is absolutely no defense for that - if anything should carry mandatory prison sentences (and i'm no fan of mandatory minimums), sexually assaulting children should.

Posted by: virginia | May 7, 2010 12:07:13 PM

Virginia, there IS a mandatory minimum for traveling across state lines to have sex with a child in the federal system (the jurisdiction we are refering to with respect to child pornography)!!! That's the other issue with Professor Berman's comparison, he compares a New York State crime with a federal crime, again, apples and oranges!

Posted by: anon | May 7, 2010 1:15:52 PM

Five years is a slap on the wrist compared to the death penalty.

Posted by: George | May 7, 2010 4:14:48 PM

So. The way I read it from your article, as it stands now, at any point someone who appears over the age of consent, who maybe has fake-IDed her way into the club, then had sex with someone but is actually 16 has just been raped, and that carries a mandatory prison sentence?

Just think of all the people you could get thrown in prison and put on sex offender registries!

Posted by: John Watrous | May 8, 2010 8:05:42 AM

That's right, John...just one of the thousands of vicious bear traps set for citizens over the past few decades by packs of grandstanding weasels and demagogues posing as congressional leaders.

Posted by: John K | May 8, 2010 10:14:44 AM

That's right john. Under florida law. You could get a copy of her ID, SS Card, and Birth Cert. and if it turns out she's COMITTED FRAUD and used a fake ID and you had sex with her. Guess what your not legally allowed to even use it in your defense.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 8, 2010 6:52:20 PM

John K and John Watrous --

A 16 year-old runaway girl is slapped around by her involuntarily acquired pimp and forced into prostitution, and your sympathies, so far as they have been expressed here, lie ENTIRELY with a millionaire ex-sports star IN HIS FIFTIES who takes advantage of the situation.

Do you think a review of your priorities might be in order?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2010 8:18:16 PM

To be sure, that's the prosecutor's story.

But what if Bill Maher is right? What if some females nowadays are just Hos? Not exploited. Not bullied into it. Just hos.

Whether the girl in the LT story was an innocent victim or a natural-born Ho is irrelevant to my point: the ignorance-is-no-excuse statute was concocted to deflect plausibly legitimate defenses and ensure convictions...not to produce just outcomes.

Posted by: John K | May 9, 2010 12:18:51 PM

John K --

"But what if Bill Maher is right?"

There's a first time for everything, I suppose.

"What if some females nowadays are just Hos? Not exploited. Not bullied into it. Just hos."

Do you think a 16 year-old might be a little young to be making a career choice? And however that may be, do you or Maher have any evidence that THIS PARTICULAR victim was a -- to use your term -- natural born "ho"? What evidence would that be?

News flash: Fifty-one year old men should not be having sex with 16 year-old girls under any circumstances. Such a thing could not possibly be anything but exploitation.

It is a mark of how far you have wandered from anything that might be mistaken for mainstream thinking that you regard longstanding laws about the rape of children as some sort of evil snare -- in this instance, a snare for a millionaire sports celebrity. Poor guy.

You continue with this: "Whether the girl in the LT story was an innocent victim or a natural-born Ho is irrelevant to my point: the ignorance-is-no-excuse statute was concocted to deflect plausibly legitimate defenses and ensure convictions...not to produce just outcomes."

Society has determined that the age at which to invoke "the ignorance-is-no-excuse statute" is 17 or less. Apparently you would have it be at 15 or less (otherwise your criticism of this prosecution based on sex with a 16 year-old is incoherent). But rather than speak for you, I'd prefer to let you speak for yourself. Is there ANY age at which you will step away from accusing the fascist pigs of having "concocted" statutory rape as a ruse "to deflect plausibly legitimate defenses and ensure convictions"? What age would that be? 14? 12? 10? What?

Lawrence Taylor denies having sex with this girl but does not deny that he paid to have sex with her. No one denies that she was 16.

And here I thought liberals were into womens' rights! Shame on me. You guys aren't even into GIRLS' rights, at least if this girl's rights are understood to include the right to be free from abuse and exploitation at the hands of a 280 pound ex-NFL player three times her age.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2010 2:42:09 PM

I've seen 20-year-olds that looked 16...and vice versa.

I've known 16-year-olds who seemed poised and mature well beyond their years.

Fake ids aren't hard to come by.

So you can't go by looks. Carding isn't a reliable test. Then it seems reasonable, when sexual encounters raise the prospect of criminal charges, to consider the extent to which under-age females might have gone to misrepresent their age.

Of course that would make prosecutions more difficult in some circumstances. So, clearly, something had to be done. Can't let reality or fairplay get in the way of efficient, successful prosecutions.

Posted by: John K | May 9, 2010 4:13:14 PM

I'm reading the above argument and a thought crossed my mind.

If a scandal broke out today with an underage porn star, who's made dozens of films, How many people could conceivably fall into a real fix?

Costars, Film crew, vendors selling the film, people with copies of it....

Do we label them all deviants? It's a huge industry making Billions of dollars. Who's to blame?

Posted by: Mike | May 9, 2010 6:11:58 PM

John K --

"I've known 16-year-olds who seemed poised and mature well beyond their years."

Did you then have sex with them when you were 51?

"Fake ids aren't hard to come by."

You can't seriously be suggesting that Lawrence Taylor checked her id are you? I have to confess I laughed out loud when I read that.

"So you can't go by looks."

Then maybe you shouldn't go at all, d'ya think? Maybe put the bite on someone a mere 30 years younger?

And now for the question you skipped past: Society has determined that the age at which to invoke "the ignorance-is-no-excuse statute" is 17 or less. Apparently you would have it be at 15 or less (otherwise your criticism of this prosecution based on sex with a 16 year-old is incoherent). But rather than speak for you, I'd prefer to let you speak for yourself. Is there ANY age at which you will step away from accusing the fascist pigs of having "concocted" statutory rape as a ruse "to deflect plausibly legitimate defenses and ensure convictions"? What age would that be? 14? 12? 10? What?

You wanna let us know what version of "reality or fair play," as you put it, allows a man well into middle age to have sex with a 12 year-old?


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2010 6:17:15 PM

Criticizing older men for hooking up with much younger women is one thing. However, before we imprison them for a decade or so (then hound them for life with registries and restrictions) it only seems fair to consider whether they should or could have known their partner was under-age...and whether intentional deception was a factor.

"You can't seriously be suggesting that Lawrence Taylor checked her id are you? I have to confess I laughed out loud when I read that."

No, I didn't suggest any such thing. My point was that carding any prostitute (escort, date, whatever) wouldn't rescue any man from laws that makes it a crime not to know things that can be deliberately and effectively concealed.

Neither am I suggesting it's OK for 51-year-old men to have sex with 16-year-old girls. My problem is with a law that doesn't take into account the difficulty of guessing ages, weights or other mysterious differences between human beings.

It's not exactly like counting tree rings or carbon dating rocks. The law shouldn't pretend it is.

Posted by: John K | May 9, 2010 7:40:31 PM

Mike --

"Do we label them all deviants? It's a huge industry making Billions of dollars. Who's to blame?"

The people who encourage it by making excuses for it. I trust this would not include you.

Sorry, but when you inveigle/pay/drug/force a 14 year-old into having sex with men in their fifties, and you willingly associate yourself with this venture in order to get "your share" of the billions, you belong in jail.

Or maybe 14 is OK with you, if she looks "poised and mature," as John K would say.

So how 'bout 12? Or 10? I mean, why not? We wouldn't want to stuff the prisons with "Costars, Film crew, vendors selling the film, people with copies of it...," now would we? Just because they made a mistake about the girl's (or the boy's) age? Hey, look, people make mistakes, right? And we wouldn't want to feed the fascist prosecutors' appetite for crushing under their boot these zillions of non-violent, first-time offenders. It's bad enough that the country is being ruined by the Tea Partiers. Now we have these Puritan zealots fuming that there's something rotten about using the sexual debasement of children to make some easy dough. Oh, the arrogance of it....

*******************************

Guys, do you have any idea how a conversation like this would sound on a site not dominated by the criminal defense bar? Would you like to repeat what you're saying at the PTA maybe?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2010 7:44:28 PM

It's possible, Bill, that even the PTA might be less judgmental of a guy whose prostitute turned out to be 16.

On the other hand, I don't think it's possible anyone but a career prosecutor or a gaggle of grandstanding, demagogic members of congress could be more judgmental.

Posted by: John K | May 9, 2010 8:13:04 PM

John K --

"Criticizing older men for hooking up with much younger women is one thing. However, before we imprison them for a decade or so (then hound them for life with registries and restrictions) it only seems fair to consider whether they should or could have known their partner was under-age...and whether intentional deception was a factor."

1. I was not aware the LT has been imprisoned for a decade or so, or at all.

2. How close the girl was to legal age, and how close she looked, can be accounted for at sentencing. It is not a reason to end statutory rape laws or criticize prosecutors for enforcing them.

3. Blaming the girl for "intentional deception" -- which is not even hinted at in Doug's description of the case -- must be the prototype of blaming the victim. Why, with you, must it ALWAYS be assumed to be someone else's fault, never the defendant's?

"My point was that carding any prostitute (escort, date, whatever) wouldn't rescue any man from laws that makes it a crime not to know things that can be deliberately and effectively concealed."

Whatever this was, a "date" it assuredly was not. And any man can "rescue" himself by refraining from dealing with pimps. Is that too much to ask? And if it is, he can further "rescue" himself by saying, to the item the pimp produces, "Sweetie, you look a little too close to the line for me. Maybe you should be seeing a high school boy. So long."

And AGAIN you don't answer the question, instead delving into the Mysteries of Life (as if LT had any interest whatever in said mysteries). So I'll ask again: Is there ANY age at which you will step away from accusing the fascist pigs of having "concocted" statutory rape as a ruse "to deflect plausibly legitimate defenses and ensure convictions"? What age would that be? 14? 12? 10? What?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2010 8:24:26 PM

John K --

"It's possible, Bill, that even the PTA might be less judgmental of a guy whose prostitute turned out to be 16."

1. The law itself is judgmental to its core. That's why they call the thing at the end of the court's opinion a "judgment."

2. For however that may be, few could surpass your own acid judgmentalism toward prosecutors and Congressman (which you cut loose with exactly one sentence later).

3. If one cannot be "judgmental" about a hugely muscular 51 year-old man raping a teenage girl, then we are back to the law of the jungle. There's no other way to put it.

4. What do you mean "evan the PTA"??? Has the PTA become another tentacle in the ever-growing Vast Right Wing Conspiracy? Is it now a fascist crime, in your view, to be a parent? Or to go to a meeting of parents?

5. As I say, anytime you want to show up in person at a PTA meeting to hold forth with what you've been saying here, feel free. The assembled will be more than a little interested to know that their daughters are "hos" (your word, not mine), available for rent for $300 an hour -- AND THAT THE LAW SHOULD TAKE IT EASY ON THE RENTER. Are you planning to fill them in on it?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2010 8:47:45 PM

Sorry Bill, I wasn't condoning any deviant acts with minors. I was curious how Brower might handle a case today like Traci Lords deceptively posing as an adult in making porn movies. I believe she was 15-16 when she began. Brower states "Ignorance is no excuse"

So my question was:
"How many people could conceivably fall into a real fix?"

Brower would not comment on whether Taylor knew the girl's age; third-degree rape is a charge levied when the victim is under the age of consent, which is 17 in New York. "Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual's age," Brower said....

Posted by: Mike | May 9, 2010 10:08:36 PM

Mike --

"How many people could conceivably fall into a real fix?"

I have no earthly clue. But I have a good clue about how Lawrence Taylor could avoid "falling into" a "real fix": refrain from dealing with pimps renting out teenagers. Is that too much to ask? And if it is, a man could further "rescue" himself from the "real fix" by saying, to the item the pimp produces, "Sweetie, I'm 51, and you look a little too close to the line for me. Maybe you should be seeing some high school boy. So long."

For a man in his fifties to stay away from high school girls being pimped to him doesn't take anything beyond basic decency. As I was saying, a conversation about how dreadful it would be to put these people in jail could only occur on a site dominated by criminal defense lawyers. Is there some reason to be worried, not about Taylor's conduct last week, but about what Browser would do about a 25 year-old movie?

Mike, this girl was someone's daughter. Do you think it's possible her parents at some point had a hope for her life more elevated than being rented out to a 280 pound man in his fifties?

I get an earful from people here talking nonstop about their supposed compassion, but they're oddly, and completely, silent in offering any compassion to this girl. Instead they openly wonder, with no evidence, whether she's just a "ho," and they save their compassion for a millionaire sports legend and now, it would seem, the underage porn industry and its satellites.

Yikes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2010 11:58:46 PM

Taylor is now saying he did not have intercourse with the 16-year-old, and simply pleasured himself. There may be other charges:

* Let's say, to stimulate him, she took off clothing. That could violate Penal Law 263.05 (Use of a child in a sexual performance), a C Felony (worse than the E Felony for 3rd Degree Rape).

* There's also 260.20 (Unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree), an A misdemeanor.

* 260.10 (Endangering the welfare of a child), another A misdemeanor.

I hope the Grand Jury in Rockland is taking Taylor's statements into account.

Posted by: Ed Unneland | May 13, 2010 12:33:01 PM

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