Lawrence Taylor is presumed innocent unless proven guilty, a legal right that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1895 traced back to England, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. But Taylor, the Hall of Fame linebacker and recent contestant on Dancing With the Stars, is already convicted in the court of public opinion, guilty of sheer stupidity if not criminal debauchery. He was arraigned Thursday in Suffern, N.Y. on rape and prostitution charges involving a 16-year-old runaway.
Kenneth Gribetz, an attorney for Taylor, said "we're confident his innocence will be proven." He's sadly mistaken. Taylor might receive a favorable verdict, but innocence? Only if such a thing exists for a married man who allegedly had a young woman delivered to his hotel and gave her $300 after having sex. As for the case, he'd stand a better chance of winning if the accuser wasn't a minor.
Even if Taylor didn't rape the accuser, he's guilty anyway if they had sex, because she not's old enough to consent. Yes, there are 16-year-old girls who can pass for 21-year-old women. But as Ramapo Chief of Police Peter Brower said, "Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual's age." So whether he forced the issue or not, Taylor could be screwed. If DNA evidence links him to the girl, watching Gribetz squirm out of that hole will be fascinating.
I have absolutely no sympathy for men who commit violence against women, whether it's strong-arming them for sex or any other reason. I have contempt for the perpetrators no matter the victims' age, but even more so when a child is involved. And despite everything we see and hear in mainstream media and pop culture, 16-year-olds are still children. As horrible as Taylor's alleged actions are, the alleged behavior of 36-year-old parolee Rasheed Davis is even more disgusting.
Davis, arrested on charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault and endangering the welfare of a child, is accused of harboring the runaway for a few weeks before beating her up, driving her to Taylor's hotel and ordering her to have sex with him. "He struck the young girl with his fist, kicked her and brought her to the Holiday Inn against her will," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. Police said when she refused, Taylor assaulted her and then paid her $300, which they said she gave to Davis.
Police said the girl, who was reported missing by her family in March, sent text messages to her uncle while en route to Taylor's hotel. The uncle called the police, who woke up Taylor and arrested him around 4 a.m. Thursday morning. And just like that, the former star was back in the news for all the wrong reasons. But unlike his well-documented struggles with substance abuse and the IRS, he's not his own victim in this case. Becoming addicted to cocaine and avoiding income taxes is one thing. A rape accusation is an entirely different offense. That's one reason there was such a media scrum at his arraignment, streamed live on ESPN New York. "I'm not that important," he told reporters after being released on $75,000 bail.
He's correct. But any time we can attach a public face to a shameful national epidemic, we should. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, someone is sexually assaulted every six minutes in the United States, and 1 in 6 women are assaulted in their lifetime. Famous athletes can consider the extra scrutiny that they get when accused of such crimes to be the price of being in the media spotlight (and the seemingly abundant number of willing partners they can choose from).
Never mind the fact that Taylor has a wife and was described as a "loving family man" by another attorney, Arthur Aidala. Can't he find women he doesn't have to pay for? Or take it from?
Deron Snyder is a regular contributor to The Root.