Lawrence Taylor's ability to unleash violence on a football field while maintaining a winning charisma off of it had made him untouchable during so many setbacks through the years.
Drug arrests, deadbeat dad charges and wild antics all melted away with his sheepish smile. If anything, he was able to sell his bad boy image in movie roles and as the front man for an extreme video game. He managed to maintain enough mainstream popularity to hawk diet plans and compete on "Dancing With the Stars."
It's all different now. It's all over for that.
The dark reality of LT's life has come clear in his arrest Thursday in suburban New York for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl who police say was a runaway under the control of a pimp. Taylor was arrested in Room 160 of the low-rent Holidome in Montebello, N.Y., where the girl told police she was brought to have sex with him.
"[Taylor] engaged in sexual intercourse with a child less than 17 years old for which he paid the victim $300," said Peter Brower, the police chief in nearby Ramapo.
This is about as horrific as it gets, the worst yet chapter in the tragedy of one of the NFL's all-time greatest players.
Taylor's side of the story remains to be heard. He deserves the full presumption of innocence that a court will provide. Bail was set at $75,000 during Thursday's arraignment in Rockland County, and the case will continue June 10. Taylor did not enter a plea, though his attorney said he would fight the charge, saying at one point Taylor didn't know the girl at all.
"Lawrence Taylor is denying these charges," Arthur Aidala, Taylor's attorney, said at the arraignment.
His defense had better be a strong one.
If this isn't some incredible case of mistaken identity, it's difficult to envision an innocent scenario here. You don't just accidentally get charged with this kind of crime.
It's why in the court of public opinion, Lawrence Taylor just found a situation that his Hall of Fame highlight reel with the New York Giants can't overcome, that his likable ways can't brush away.
The questions are overwhelming for Taylor.
Why was a 51-year-old man in a cheap motel room with a 16-year-old girl at all? Did he notice what Ramapo police say were noticeable facial injuries from a beating that occurred prior to visiting Taylor's room and still proceeded with the act? And what about the New York Daily News report, based on police sources, that the girl resisted the act?
"We don't know if this was the first time she's been asked to do such a thing," said Ramapo supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. "We don't know if it was against her will."
According to police, Taylor was most adamant in making sure they didn't think he beat the girl. There was no evidence of drug use according to Chief Brower, although "there was a bottle of alcohol" in the room.
Taylor is being charged with third-degree rape, or statutory rape, which says a child is incapable of consenting with an adult. Police say it was intercourse but wouldn't detail any physical evidence.
If there was sexual contact then there is no "he said, she said," no level of consent and no ignorance of age allowed. You're essentially just guilty. "Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual's age," Chief Brower said.
The maximum prison sentence is four years, according to Brower. Taylor is also being charged with patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of one year in prison.
The story is sad on every level and that isn't to downplay the charges against Taylor. If guilty he deserves no sympathy. If he did it, his substance-abuse problems should grant him no leniency. The girl is the only possible victim here.
That said, Taylor spent his life fighting the toughest of demons. He's admitted using cocaine during as early as his second season with the Giants. He was suspended multiple times from the league for failing drug tests. In his autobiographies he told stories of nights with prostitutes, binge drinking and a drug addiction that went so far that, "at times I'd be standing in the huddle. And instead of thinking what defense we were playing I'd be thinking about smoking crack after the game."
Despite this he played football at a level few have ever achieved. His ability to rush the passer from the edge changed the way the NFL played both defense and offense, ushering in a new era of the game. He was a first team All-Pro in each of his first nine seasons in the league and led New York to two Super Bowl titles.
Post-retirement he lived in what he described as near "crack houses" and saw his life spiral further and further away from the fame, riches and adulation he earned by terrorizing quarterbacks.
"I saw coke as the only bright spot in my future," Taylor wrote.
For the last decade or so, he was supposedly clean and rehabilitated, which his attorney reasserted during the arraignment. "He's been stone cold sober for 12 years," his attorney said. "That was the old Lawrence Taylor. This is the new Lawrence Taylor."
Now comes this though, an ugly crime that reminds everyone of that old Lawrence Taylor, only worse.
This will cast LT in a new light, although who knows how old all the other prostitutes in his life were, how those encounters went down. Prostitution is a nasty business, mostly a crime of intimidation and abuse that is a long way from how the movies depict it. Taylor was always allowed to joke about hiring women though, even saying he'd send working girls to the hotel rooms of opponents the night before Giants games in an effort to "distract" them.
The girl this time was a recent runaway, according to police. She said she was driven to Taylor's motel room at 1 a.m. by 36-year-old Rasheed Davis, who police call her "pimp." On the ride back to the Bronx she texted her uncle who called the New York City Police Department. They went and saved the girl and arrested Davis. The girl is now reunited with her uncle, who had reported her missing in March.
At 3:43 a.m., police went to Taylor's room and arrested Taylor without incident.
In the wake of this news is a litany of people who had stood behind him for so many years: his family, the Giants and the NFL itself, which always pushed his Hall of Fame candidacy by arguing that his personal problems shouldn't matter.
For most of his life, it didn't. Just being LT was enough. Those days are over.
- Lawrence Taylor