Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to an indictment that alleges he had sex with a 16-year-old girl in a New York hotel room.
The former NFL star allegedly paid $300 US to the girl, a Bronx runaway, for their encounter in May. Taylor pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to third-degree rape, patronizing a prostitute, sexual abuse and endangering a child.
In the gallery, before his case was called, Taylor, 51, 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?"
Earlier, when a reporter asked outside court if he was guilty, Taylor responded, "Grow up."
Taylor was arrested May 6, after the girl's uncle contacted New York City police. He could be imprisoned for up to four years if convicted.
Defence attorney Arthur Aidala said Taylor would challenge the girl's identification of him. Aidala also said the defence 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."
One potential witness is a 23-year-old woman who told defence investigators that she heard the girl say after meeting Taylor, "It was weird.… We didn't even have sex."
Aidala said Taylor is "doing the best he can under the circumstances."
"Mr. Taylor is very much looking forward to going forward, putting this behind him, and going on to live his life," the lawyer said.
Taylor's wife sat in a front row of the courtroom during the proceeding. "His family is very supportive of him; his business colleagues are very supportive of him," Aidala said.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have filed a complaint against Rasheed Davis, who is accused of acting as the girl's pimp and who allegedly assaulted her and brought her to Taylor's hotel room in Montebello against her will. Court papers in that case say Taylor admitted to sex acts with the girl but was told the girl was 19.
Ignorance of a minor's age is not a defence to third-degree rape, said Peter Brower, chief of the Ramapo police force that arrested Taylor.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe declined to comment on the case Monday.
At the time of the indictment, he said, "One of the most effective ways to target prostitution is to go after the johns.… This indictment underscores our serious commitment to prosecuting those defendants who create a market for the region's growing sex trade."
Taylor led the New York 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.