Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor celebrated with a cigar on Friday and pledged to concentrate on his "broken life" after a jury rejected a woman's claims that he assaulted her by failing to recognize her distress when he had sex with her in a hotel room when she was 16 years old.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan deliberated for about an hour before siding with Taylor, who appeared relieved as he turned around and gave a thumbs-up to a friend on a court bench behind him. Outside, Taylor signed a copy of the verdict sheet belonging to his lawyer, Arthur Aidala, and spoke about his future and his past.
Outside the courthouse, Taylor, whose post-NFL life has been marred by missteps including drug and tax charges, smoked a cigar. When asked what kind, he said, "Redemption."
The verdict came after a four-day trial in which Taylor testified that he had sex with a "very, very pretty" prostitute in 2010 but denied accusations that he ignored obvious signs she was a teen runaway who had been beaten and forced to meet with him. He said she told him she was 19.
The meeting was in his room at a Holiday Inn in Montebello, just north of New York City, where he paid $300 to Cristina Fierro after the sexual encounter. Fierro said another man forced her to have sex with Taylor. She said she brought the lawsuit to hold Taylor accountable.
The Associated Press doesn't normally publish the names of accusers in sexual-assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Fierro has done.
Fierro's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
Taylor said he regretted that he did not know when he met Fierro about the true circumstances of their meeting.
"I feel for what she has gone through," he said. "At the time, I wasn't a bad person, and if I had known what was going on, I would have helped her. I hope the best for her."