Grand jury indicts Taylor on rape charge

NEW YORK -- Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was indicted Wednesday by a suburban New York grand jury on charges of third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute.

The indictment follows his May 6 arrest at a Holiday Inn in Ramapo, N.Y., where prosecutors say he paid a 16-year-old girl $300 to have sex with him.

Taylor had been charged previously in Ramapo Town Court, but the indictment transfers the case to Rockland County. He is scheduled to appear July 13.

The former New York Giants linebacker also was indicted on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, and sexual abuse and criminal sexual act in the third degree. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted. He has denied the charges.

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the 16-year-old told investigators that she had been verbally threatened and physically assaulted by a pimp who drove her 26 miles north to the hotel where Taylor was waiting.

"One of the most effective ways to target prostitution is to go after the johns," Zugibe said. "This indictment underscores our serious commitment to prosecuting those defendants who create a market for the region's growing sex trade."

Taylor's attorney reiterated his client's innocence Wednesday.

"Mr. Taylor and his legal team made a strategic decision not to present any evidence to the grand jury, including him testifying or any witnesses in his defense," said defense attorney Arthur Aidala.

At a late afternoon news conference in lower Manhattan, Aidala said that Taylor was prepared for the indictment.

"We've spoken about this at length," he said.

Aidala said he does not know what evidence was presented by prosecutors to the grand jury, but he said there is more to his defense than meets the eye.

"Our defense does not consist only of Lawrence Taylor and his words and his actions," Aidala said. "We have other evidence -- I'm not going to talk about what other evidence it is -- but it's not just going to be 'he said she said.' It's going to be independent, corroborated evidence that we will be putting forth in Lawrence Taylor's defense."

Of the specific charges, Aidala said: "I am saying that he did not have sexual intercourse as defined by the penal code."

He added that he did not expect a plea bargain.

The evidence includes sworn testimony by a 23-year-old woman who says she accompanied the accused pimp and the 16-year-old girl to the hotel where Taylor was staying. She said Taylor did not rape the girl. The teenager returned to the car with $300 in cash and said: "It was weird ... we didn't even have sex."

The statement was given to investigators working for the defense team and seen by The Associated Press on the condition the woman not be identified.

Taylor's longtime business manager, Mark Lepselter, said they were looking forward to the legal process "and Lawrence being able to move forward with his life."

Lepselter said he expected Taylor to appear in court within the next two weeks. Aidala told ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus that Taylor will plead not guilty, and that he expects a trial in several months -- possibly January or February.

"Obviously it's not a pleasant day for Lawrence and his family, but LT's had to overcome many obstacles in the past and is hopeful he'll be able to overcome this one as well," Lepselter said.

Earlier Wednesday, former Rockland DA Kenneth Gribetz said he was no longer representing Taylor and referred all questions to the DA's office.

A federal criminal complaint filed against the accused pimp, Rasheed Davis, recounts the victim's version of events and makes no mention of a third person in the vehicle at the time of his arrest in the Bronx. Davis has been charged in federal court with sex trafficking.

Authorities said the teen did not know whom she was meeting at the hotel room. The girl sent text messages to her uncle saying she was in trouble, police said. He called the NYPD, who arrested the suspected pimp once he returned to the Bronx with the teenager. The girl provided information about the hotel.

Taylor anchored the Giants' defense and led them to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991. He was selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-time Team.

A 10-time Pro Bowler, he was the NFL's MVP in 1986 and Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1986.

The weight-loss company NutriSystem Inc. dropped Taylor as a spokesman because of his arrest.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus and Ian O'Connor is included in this report.