Taylor pleads not guilty to rape charge

NEW CITY, N.Y. -- Former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor entered a plea of not guilty Tuesday morning in a Rockland County Court to charges of statutory rape and solicitation stemming from a May 6 arrest in a New York hotel.

Holding his wife Lynette's hand as he walked to a waiting car after the hearing, Taylor was asked if he looked forward to his day in court.

"Hopefully it don't go that far," the 51-year-old Taylor said.

Taylor is accused of soliciting a prostitute in a case involving a 16-year-old runaway. According to prosecutors, the alleged victim was able to lead police back to Taylor's hotel room in Suffern. The man alleged to be the girl's pimp also has been charged with unlawful imprisonment, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Taylor's attorney, Arthur Aidala, disputes the claims against his client, and said the case is proceeding as he expected.

In the gallery, before his case was called, Taylor smiled, looked around and said, "It must be a slow news day." He also said to a friend, "You're not playing golf today, are you?"

After the plea was entered, Rockland County District Attorney Patricia Gunning asked for a six-month extension of the order of protection first issued, to keep Taylor away from the alleged victim identified as C.F. As he did in the first court appearance in May, Aidala protested the order.

"It is Mr. Taylor's position that this person is an absolute stranger to him and he doesn't know who this person is," Aidala said.

"Then he should stay away from this person he doesn't know," the judge in the case, William Nelson, said as he granted the extension.

After some wrangling, Aidala had Taylor sign the order. The next court date is set for Aug. 3, but the Hall of Fame linebacker won't have to appear again until Aug. 24. Aidala said the case is on track for trial in the winter, and the next few months will be used to examine the case against Taylor, in terms of physical evidence, how he was identified and the statement he made the night he was arrested.

Aidala plans to challenge the evidence against Taylor. Aidala said Taylor would challenge the girl's identification of him. Aidala also said the defense would look into whether all statements made in the case were voluntary.

"A plea bargain is possible at any time in any case," he said in response to questions. But in this case, "There is no plea bargain. There is no offer."

Even if Taylor did not know the age of the girl, New York state does not recognize this as a defense in such cases. Aidala has said that there will be evidence presented that will bolster Taylor's side of the story. Aidala would not detail the way he plans to defend Taylor.

"We are getting more and more evidence coming in literally on a daily basis, so our strategies and our theories continue to develop," Aidala said.

One potential witness is a 23-year-old woman who told defense investigators that she heard the girl say after meeting Taylor, "It was weird. ... We didn't even have sex."

Mark Lepselter, Taylor's longtime friend and agent, said Taylor has been deeply affected by the charges. If convicted, Taylor would face four years in prison.

"He's been very subdued for the past two months from the day back in May," Lepselter said. "I haven't seen him like this. Mentally he's trying to get through it."

Bail in the amount of $75,000 was continued, and the court is still in possession of Taylor's passport.

The court was prepared for an influx of media, which included local media outlets and national tabloids like TMZ. The small courtroom could not fit all the reporters who attended the hearing. Cameras were not allowed, but a court sketch artist was present.

Taylor was dropped off in a black SUV at 8:58 for the 9:30 a.m. hearing. He was wearing an olive blazer, black slacks and a diamond earring in his left ear. As he was asked questions simultaneously, including one query as to whether he was guilty, Taylor turned and replied, "No, grow up."

Taylor led the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991. He was the National Football League's MVP in 1986 and Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1986. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Staff writer Ian Belgley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.