Years ago, when Lawrence Taylor’s life was a drug-induced mess, finding him arrested on charges of rape and prostitution would have been no less surprising than appalling. But that was then, before Taylor claimed to have found sobriety, before his fledgling acting career, before his stint on “Dancing With the Stars.”

So when the Giants great appeared in front of a Ramapo Town judge yesterday with his wrists shackled in front of him to face those charges – that he paid $300 to have sex with a 16-year-old girl in a Holiday Inn hotel room – it brought all of Taylor’s previous transgressions roaring back.

One of the first questions in the press conference outside Ramapo Town Hall yesterday was whether drugs had been found in the hotel room. Then another about whether Taylor appeared to be intoxicated.

And then, when Taylor’s attorney, Arthur Aidala, stepped in front of the microphones, he worked just as hard to squash the apparently non-existent drug questions as he did the rape questions.

“Lawrence has asked me to shout from the highest mountains that they have here in Rockland County that he has not touched any drugs in over a dozen years,” Aidala said. “He is clean, clean, clean. That life is over. That’s the old Lawrence Taylor. This is the new Lawrence Taylor.”

Let’s hope not. The old L.T. was self-destructive. This new one – or at least the new crimes he’s accused of – are far worse.

Still, there were some odd misdirections Aidala used when talking to the press.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

He noted that the crime Taylor is accused of was not a forcible rape, but simply a matter of age (he being over 21, she being under 17). “There is no violence, there is no force, there are no threats, there are no weapons,” Aidala said.

What about the police report where Taylor apparently confesses to paying the $300?

“I’ve handled so many cases where at the arraignment the district attorney’s office or the police talk about these claims that my clients have made and then through the course of the investigation or the course of a trial it turns out that those are absolutely blatantly false,” Aidala said, “and I suspect that that is what we’re going to find here.”

Aidala seemed to grab onto the idea that Taylor is being set up, something Taylor’s wife also said when she spoke with TMZ.com.

“It would be no shock to anybody that somebody who has really resurrected his career and has been in the public eye more recently than ever to be a target of people who, at least according to the earlier press conference, have some questionable background,” Aidala noted.

Giants videos

Of course, the big question is, if it was a setup, how did the victim, the 16-year-old girl, know which room Taylor was in at the Holiday Inn? It wasn’t until she gave her report to the NYPD that they realized they had a statutory rape case on their hands and notified the police up in Ramapo. They went right to Taylor’s room.

Aidala said that it’s easy to find out what room a celebrity is staying in and pointed to the case last year when Erin Andrews was stalked by the perv with the camera from hotel to hotel.

(Photo: AP)