SUFFERN, N.Y. — Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was charged Thursday with raping a 16-year-old runaway who police said was forced into prostitution by a man who had beaten her up.
Taylor, a 51-year-old former New York Giants star who has faced drug and tax evasion charges in the past, paid the girl $300 for sex in a Holiday Inn, where he was arrested early Thursday, said Christopher St. Lawrence, supervisor of the town of Ramapo.
The man who'd beaten the girl drove her to Taylor's suburban hotel room, police said.
Ramapo Chief of Police Peter Brower said Taylor was cooperative when police woke him up around 4 a.m. Taylor was arraigned Thursday on charges of third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute.
"I'm not that important," Taylor told a scrum of media after being released on $75,000 bail.
His attorney, Arthur Aidala, said Taylor is a "loving family man" who did not have sex with the teenager.
"My client did not have sex with anybody," Aidala said. "Lawrence Taylor did not rape anybody."
Brower would not comment on whether Taylor knew the girl's age; third-degree rape is a charge levied when the victim is under the age of consent, which is 17 in New York.
"Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual's age," Brower said.
Police said the girl was reported missing by her family in March and had been staying with a 36-year-old parolee, Rasheed Davis, in the Bronx. The two met a few weeks ago at a Bronx bus stop, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
"He chats her up. She explains she doesn't have a place to stay. He provides one," Browne said.
Davis then forced her to perform sexual favors for others, authorities said.
Early Thursday morning, Davis punched and kicked her, drove her to the hotel against her will and told her she had to have sex with Taylor, police said. When she refused, Davis handed her over to Taylor, who sexually assaulted her, they said. Taylor paid her $300, which she gave to Davis, police said.
Taylor used a middle man to arrange the liaison with the girl, Browne said.
At some point, the girl sent text messages to her uncle spelling out what was happening. The uncle then went to the NYPD, Browne said.
Davis was arrested on charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault and endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced in April 1994 to eight to 25 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter. He was paroled in March 2008.
There was no phone number listed at the address provided by police for Davis, and it wasn't clear if he had an attorney. His relationship with the girl was unclear.
The Bronx district attorney's office refused to comment.
Taylor was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 and competed in ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" last year. He had a highly publicized struggle with drug addiction and has had multiple legal run-ins since retiring from football.
At the Metamorphecise Spa in Pembroke Pines, Fla., where Taylor works out and did some of his training for his stint on the dance competition show, much of the talk Thursday was about the charges and how most people simply couldn't believe the local resident was guilty.
"He's a regular guy, a good guy who just goes about his business," said Steffen Grover, who said he'd spoken to Taylor once or twice. "I think he just wants to be like everyone else."
Police said no drugs were found in Taylor's hotel room on Thursday but a bottle of alcohol was.
A quick, fierce and athletic linebacker who redefined his position, Taylor anchored the Giants' defense and led them to Super Bowls titles in 1987 and 1991. He was selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
A 10-time Pro Bowler, he was the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1986 and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1986. He recorded 132 1/2 sacks, which doesn't included his 9 sacks in 1981 when the statistic wasn't official.
In 2001, Taylor was convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia in New Jersey. The conviction stemmed from the September 1998 discovery in a hotel room of a butane torch and other materials commonly used to smoke crack.
In 1996 and 1997, he was arrested in South Carolina and Florida on drug charges. In those cases, he either admitted his guilt or agreed to enter a pretrial intervention program.
In 2000, he drew five years of federal probation for filing false tax returns and for tax evasion.
Taylor is due in court again on the latest charges on June 10.
Raiders release former No. 1 overall pick Russell
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Three years, more than $39 million and only seven wins as the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.
The verdict is in on JaMarcus Russell’s career in Oakland and he just might be the NFL’s biggest draft bust.
The Raiders released Russell on Thursday, just three years after making him the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
The decision came less than two weeks after Oakland acquired Jason Campbell from Washington to take over at quarterback. It signifies that owner Al Davis finally lost patience with the immensely talented but unproductive player he drafted in 2007 against the wishes of former coach Lane Kiffin.
"We wish him well," senior executive John Herrera told The Associated Press.
Russell will now be considered one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history, joining the likes of Ryan Leaf, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, Tony Mandarich, Charles Rogers, Heath Shuler and Blair Thomas on that list.
Russell showed up at last week’s minicamp, saying he would keep coming to work until told otherwise. He looked decent in the first of five practices last weekend, but got less work as the weekend went on, and the decision to cut ties finally was made.
The Raiders paid Russell about $36.4 million through last season. They still owe him $3 million more, putting the final tally on his earnings at about $39.4 million. But the team saved $6.45 million by not having him on the roster in 2010.
Since the start of the common draft in 1967, only one other No. 1 pick was released this quickly in his NFL career. Indianapolis cut 1992 top pick Steve Emtman after three seasons, but that was more because of injuries than production.
Emtman played three more seasons for Miami and Washington. It remains to be seen whether any team will give the 24-year-old Russell another shot.
Davis believed Russell could turn the fortunes of his struggling franchise when he drafted him. He stood by him during his struggles, revealing when he fired Kiffin in 2008 that the coach did not want him.
"He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field," Davis read from a letter he sent Kiffin before the firing. "That is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team."
But the Raiders were unable to win with Russell at the helm and Davis allowed coach Tom Cable, Kiffin’s successor, to bench Russell midway through last season. The move was popular in the locker room and gave the team a spark on the field as Bruce Gradkowski led comeback wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Davis was not satisfied with Gradkowski as his standard bearer and the Raiders were linked to possible offseason deals for Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger. While the Raiders downplayed how serious those talks ever got, they did make the move for another quarterback when they acquired Campbell from Washington for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick.
The team showed confidence in Campbell by extending his contract through 2011, giving him a $4.5 million deal for that season on top of the $3.14 million he is owed this season.
Russell won only seven of his 25 starts as the Raiders extended an NFL-worst streak to seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses. He completed just 52.1 percent of his passes in his career with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 15 lost fumbles and a passer rating of 65.2.
That means Russell has been paid more than $5 million per win, more than $2 million per touchdown pass and more than $100,000 per completion.
While Russell’s numbers are superior to Leaf’s, he was paid considerably more money to do it and was picked first overall instead of second. Leaf’s rookie contract guaranteed him only $11.25 million.
Russell’s tenure in Oakland got off to a rough start and never got much better. He held out his first season, not signing a contract until after the first game of the regular season. That made his rookie season almost a complete loss, as he started only one game.
He showed some signs of progress in his second season, especially in winning the final two games against Houston and Tampa Bay. But the problems of work ethic and his weight never disappeared and his third season was an utter disaster.
He was fined for being overweight when he showed up at training camp. He then put together one of the worst seasons in recent memory for an NFL quarterback. He completed 48.8 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 50.0 passer rating that was the lowest since Leaf, Bobby Hoying and Craig Whelihan all finished below 50 in 1998.
NOTES: The Raiders also announced that they signed free agent running back Michael Bennett to a contract.
-- Josh Dubow
Minn. judge sides with NFL in StarCaps case
MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota judge chastised the NFL on Thursday and said the league broke state law even as he handed the league a significant victory in a closely watched lawsuit by two Minnesota Vikings challenging their suspensions for taking a banned substance.
Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson said the NFL failed to notify the two players of their test results within three days, as required in Minnesota, and said an NFL official played "a game of 'gotcha'" with them. But he said that wasn't enough to block the NFL's plan to suspend the players for four games each.
The decision doesn't necessarily clear the way for the NFL to suspend Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for part of next season, however. The judge put off a decision on whether to extend an injunction blocking the suspensions pending an expected appeal by the players. A decision isn't expected for about two weeks.
The NFL first attempted to suspend the defensive tackles in December 2008, a few months after they tested positive for a banned diuretic that was in the StarCaps weight-loss supplement they were taking. They were not accused of taking steroids and said they had no idea the diuretic was in the supplement.
The players challenged their suspensions while their lawsuit played out in federal and state court. They got to play for the entire 2009-10 season, helping Minnesota reach the NFC championship game, where it lost to eventual Super Bowl winner New Orleans.
The Williamses' lead attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said the decision was a victory because the judge ruled that the NFL was a "joint employer" of the players and had to abide by state law.
"The results are decidedly mixed," he said. "All NFL players and the state of Minnesota have gained an important victory. No employer can stand above the law, including the NFL. We are obviously disappointed that, despite violating Kevin and Pat's rights, the NFL still is threatening to suspend them."
The NFL and other sports leagues argued that their drug-testing programs would be at risk if state-level challenges like the Williamses were allowed to proceed. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League all filed briefs in support of the NFL's position. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed a similar motion on its own.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the decision showed that the players' claims "were without substance and that the players suffered no harm by being required to comply with the terms of the collectively bargained policy on steroids and related substances.
"We intend to continue to administer a strong, effective program on performance-enhancing drugs that applies on a uniform basis to all players in all states," Aiello said.
A spokesman for the NFL Players Association said the union was reviewing the ruling, but that it "has always believed in and supported" the NFL policy.
A Vikings spokesman said the team had no immediate comment.
The case dates to October 2008, when news leaked that several NFL players, including the Williamses, had tested positive for the diuretic bumetanide, which the NFL has banned because it can mask the presence of steroids.
Saints defensive end Will Smith and former Saints end Charles Grant tested positive for the same substance, but were not involved in the Minnesota lawsuit. The NFL has held off on enforcing their four-game suspensions until the Minnesota case is resolved. Grant is a free agent after being released by the Saints.
The Williamses acknowledged taking StarCaps the night before a weigh-in during 2008 training camp. The supplement did not list bumetanide as an ingredient on the label, and the players testified they would not have taken StarCaps if they had known.
The NFL's no-tolerance policy holds players responsible for knowing what they put into their bodies. Still, Larson was sharply critical of how NFL officials handled the testing and he singled out NFL vice president Adolpho Birch, who's responsible for implementing the drug policy.
Larson wrote that Birch knew NFL players were inadvertently ingesting bumetanide when they took StarCaps, but made a conscious decision not to tell players, the teams, the players' union or federal regulators.
"Birch knew full well that players would continue taking StarCaps and testing positive for bumetanide. ... Birch was playing a game of 'gotcha,'" Larson wrote.
Larson, however, also noted that both Vikings players acknowledged no harm was done to them by waiting months before the NFL told them of the positive drug test results.
One of the key issues in the trial was whether the Williamses, who are not related, were employees of the Vikings, the NFL or both, as they contended during the trial. The NFL had argued that they were Vikings employees only, so the league wasn't subject to the state law. Larson disagreed and said both the NFL and team employed the players.
He also ruled that the Williamses failed to prove the NFL violated state confidentiality laws by leaking word of the positive drug tests. Still, the judge called Birch's investigation into the source of the leak "very brief" and "highly suspect," and said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell must have concluded the leak "was clearly of no importance."
"We respectfully disagree," Aiello said.
If the NFL is ultimately allowed to impose punishment at the start of the upcoming season, the Vikings would be without the heart of their stout run defense for the first four games of the season.
It wasn't immediately clear, however, how long the appeals process might take. Another attorney for the players, Steve Rau, told Larson it might take the appeals court until November to decide unless the court expedites the case.
-- Steve Karnowski
Video, audio recordings loom over Saints case
NEW ORLEANS — A lawyer who says he has recordings showing that the New Orleans Saints tried to cover up prescription Vicodin thefts from team headquarters says the NFL has not asked to see any of the evidence that has already been sent to federal authorities.
"We’re not adverse to letting the NFL know what we know," said attorney Donald Hyatt, who represents former Saints security director Geoffrey Santini. "That’s the governing body for the sport. Maybe they need to know what’s going on."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said the league is aware of the case against the Saints and is following developments, but Aiello declined on Thursday to address specifics, including any knowledge of the tapes.
Santini, who says he resigned last August over the club’s handling of the alleged Vicodin thefts, filed the lawsuit late last week.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel has denied the allegations and said the club is prepared to vigorously defend itself in court.
Hyatt said video and audio evidence collected and copied by Santini indicates otherwise.
"The notion that they’re false allegations, that there was no wrongdoing, based on my review of video and audio recordings, is absurd," Hyatt said.
Santini, a retired FBI agent, gave federal authorities evidence he collected at team headquarters before he resigned. Santini worked for the FBI for 31 years and was the lead agent in a gambling corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration told The Associated Press last weekend that the agency is aware of the matter and that an investigation is pending.
However, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has declined to discuss the investigation.
"While acknowledging the complaint was made to us and the fact that we referred it to DEA for their consideration, I’m not at liberty to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation," Letten said.
Head coach Sean Payton is the only member of the franchise other than Bensel to comment on the case.
Payton issued a statement through the team, asserting he has never abused or stolen Vicodin, a narcotic used to relieve moderate to severe pain.
Payton spoke out when his name surfaced as the unidentified person in the complaint who was permitted to take a large enough amount of Vicodin from the team’s drug locker to constitute abuse.
Nothing in the complaint indicated that Payton, who was not mentioned in the lawsuit by name, had done anything illegal. However, the complaint said another "senior staff member" was caught on video using a trainer’s key to steal Vicodin.
People who have spoken to The Associated Press about the case — on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations — said that other staff member was linebackers coach Joe Vitt.
Vitt has not responded to voicemail and e-mail messages seeking comment.
Santini’s lawsuit alleges that general manager Mickey Loomis asked Santini to keep quiet about the Vicodin case and allegedly told Santini not to preserve video evidence. The complaint also alleges that two trainers — Scottie Patton and Kevin Mangum — were caught on audio recordings discussing that they were ordered by Loomis to forge entries in official logs so the amount of Vicodin stolen would be reflected as an amount that had been properly distributed.
The DEA is not known to concern itself with drug abusers or make the theft of a relatively small amount of a controlled substance a high priority.
However, an alleged cover-up of the improper distribution of controlled substances from an onsite pharmacy at the team’s facility could be difficult for federal authorities to ignore.
The Saints continue to focus on the business of football, trying to secure contracts for several stars from last seasons Super Bowl championship squad. Earlier this week, the Saints completed a 1-year contract with All-Pro safety Darren Sharper and a 7-year contract with All-Pro right guard Jahri Evans.
This weekend, the Saints will hold rookie camp.
-- Brett Martel
Bengals agree to deal with Jones
CINCINNATI — Adam "Pacman" Jones agreed to a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, putting the troubled cornerback on a team with a history of giving players second chances.
Jones, who was released by the Cowboys after the 2008 season and didn’t play last year, worked for the Bengals twice this offseason, including Tuesday. He was selected by Tennessee in the first round of the 2005 draft, but has struggled to stay on the field because of his repeated arrests.
"There is going to be a two-year deal," Tom Hunter, Jones’ agent, told The Associated Press on Thursday night. "It’s going to be signed Friday or Monday. We don’t have in hand yet but we will."
A message was left Thursday seeking comment from the Bengals.
Jones, 26, was suspended for the entire 2007 season and for six games with the Cowboys in 2008 for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.
Jones could have some trouble making the Bengals. Cincinnati has one of the best cornerback tandems in the league in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, who had six interceptions apiece last season. Morgan Trent, a sixth-round pick last year, had a solid rookie season, and the Bengals selected Brandon Ghee from Wake Forest in the third round last month, looking for depth at the position.
The defense finished fourth in the league in 2009, one of the main reasons Cincinnati won the AFC North with a 10-6 record.
Jones was expected to be a cornerstone of Tennessee’s defense for years after he was drafted out of West Virginia. Instead, he was arrested six times and involved in 12 instances requiring police intervention. The Cowboys traded for him and he got into trouble again, drawing the six-game suspension for an alcohol-related scuffle with a team-provided bodyguard.
He appeared in nine games with Dallas, starting six, but failed to get an interception. He also returned punts and averaged only 4.5 yards, prompting the Cowboys to release him after the season.
Jones went to West Virginia along with late Bengals receiver Chris Henry. The two of them got into so much trouble with their NFL teams that commissioner Roger Goodell toughened the league’s disciplinary policies.
The Bengals released Henry in 2008 following his fifth arrest. Owner Mike Brown referred to himself as a "redeemer" and did an about-face, bringing Henry back against the wishes of coach Marvin Lewis. Henry died in a fall from a pickup truck driven by his fiancee late last season.
The Bengals became more cautious about signing troubled players after they had 10 arrested during a 14-month span. Henry and linebacker Odell Thurman were the main offenders, drawing repeated suspensions beginning in 2005.
The team has softened its stance in the last two years, bringing in players on low-risk deals. Running back Cedric Benson was released by the Bears after two alcohol-related arrests — the cases were dropped after grand juries declined to indict — and the Bengals signed him to a minimal financial deal during the 2008 season.
They took the same approach last season with running back Larry Johnson, who got a minimal contract and left as a free agent after the season.
In February, the Bengals signed receiver Matt Jones, who didn’t play in the NFL last season, to a one-year deal at close to the league minimum. Jones was charged with cocaine possession and with violating a plea agreement, prompting the Jaguars to release him after the 2008 season.
Manning’s new teammates must leave cheering behind
INDIANAPOLIS — Jacques McClendon spent most of his life following Peyton Manning.
Now, the Colts’ rookie guard from Tennessee is adapting to his new role: lining up in front of his favorite player.
The stark reality hit McClendon like a 350-pound defensive tackle last weekend, hours after Manning spoke with Indy’s new rookie class. Yes, the Colts brought him in to protect Manning, not admire him.
"He told us about the Colts expectations, to be champions," McClendon said with an excited voice. "That means a lot coming from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, if not the greatest of all time. That’s pretty cool."
Making the transition from college to the NFL is tough enough for most rookies, particularly those hoping to break in with an experienced offensive line that has to protect the league’s only four-time MVP.
McClendon’s challenges include mastering a new playbook, impressing the coaches and getting acclimated to the cadence of a quarterback he’s been watching for more than a decade on television. Now, like the other two dozen rookies in Indy, McClendon also has to dispense with the thoughts and emotions that have emerged after all those years of watching Manning.
It’s an imposing task.
"It is kind of hard to put it in perspective because that guy (Manning) is unbelievable," said linebacker Pat Angerer, Indy’s second-round pick from Iowa. "He’s pretty tall, too, taller than I expected."
Manning’s shadow has grown increasingly larger because of the growing age gap between himself and each new rookie class. At 34, Manning has been around the NFL long enough that his youngest teammates were preteens when he first joined the Colts.
They’ve watched him evolve into the NFL’s biggest pitch man and repeatedly tried to put themselves in Peyton’s place during video game contests, long before they arrived for mini-camp.
That combination has created some awkward introductions over the years.
"I’ve had a couple of ‘Mr. Mannings,’ and I squelched those right away. I said, ‘Call me Peyton,"’ Manning said two years ago. "The strange thing for me is the autographs. I’m used to signing autographs for kids or friends or whatever, but they’re coming up and asking for my autograph because they’re a fan. I always say, ‘You’re not a fan, you’re my teammate, and we need to be equals here."’
Manning’s words haven’t exactly shrunk the club.
"I was a big fan of his starting off as a kid," said defensive end Jerry Hughes, Indy’s first-round pick from TCU. "Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning?"
Those who make it with Indy understand they can’t allow those star-struck looks to affect their play.
So Manning has devised his own way to tamp things down. Before the rookies had their first meeting with coach Jim Caldwell last weekend, Manning and defensive captain Gary Brackett asked Caldwell if they could speak to the players.
"It was a unique moment," Caldwell said with a smile. "You could kind of see them all sit up in their seats the moment they walked in."
For McClendon, a native of Cleveland, Tenn., it was a scene he’d dreamed about for years.
Like Manning, he graduated from Tennessee in three years. Like Manning, he started pursuing a master’s degree before he was drafted. Like Manning, he was one of the top students on Tennessee’s football team, and like Manning, he landed in Indianapolis.
"I’ve got a Peyton Manning jersey, I’ve got his autographed helmet in my mother’s house, so you know I’m a huge Peyton Manning fan," McClendon said minutes after he was taken by Indy. But he’s also smart enough to know he can’t his admiration of Manning prevent him from becoming Manning’s personal protector.
"It’s not hard for me at all to put those feelings aside," McClendon said. "I want to be the best football player I can. I want to learn from the best, so I want him to teach me."
-- Michael Marot
NFLPA may boycott some Indy hotels during combine
INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Players Association is threatening to boycott three prominent hotels during the NFL Scouting Combine next year as a show of support to hotel employees.
Unite Here, a Chicago-based hotel workers union, has been trying to organize employees at the Westin Indianapolis, Hyatt Regency Indianapolis and Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites in Indianapolis for the past two years. The NFLPA says workers in Indianapolis are paid less than their peers in other large cities, and believes the hotels are bullying employees into staying out of the union.
Unite Here has spoken out against the alleged practices. A spokeswoman for Hyatt said Unite Here is misleading the public.
NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis declined to comment.
-- Cliff Brunt
Broncos sign free agent OL Williams
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos beefed up their offensive line by signing free agent Maurice Williams, who spent his first nine season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of Williams’ 100 career starts, 86 have come at right tackle, 12 at right guard and two at left tackle.
The Jaguars selected Williams in the second round of the 2001 draft out of the University of Michigan.
The Broncos also released two free agents they signed following the draft: safety Marcellus Bowman and guard Michael Shumard.