Former pro football star Lawrence Taylor, who pleaded guilty in January to sexual misconduct and patronizing a 16-year-old prostitute, was declared a low-risk sex offender on Tuesday, meaning there will be no photo of the former New York Giants linebacker on public online sex-offender registries.
Rockland County Court Judge William Kelly said Taylor was not targeting children and was unlikely to commit the same crime.
"He would be awfully foolish to go out and do this again," the judge said. As to a posted photo, he said, "I don't see how that's going to make the public any safer."
Taylor has said the girl told him she was 19. The former NFL standout, who lives in Florida, did not attend the hearing.
Kelly designated Taylor a Level 1, or low-risk, sex offender. Rockland County prosecutor Patricia Gunning had argued for a Level 2 label. Using established guidelines, she said Taylor scored 80 points on a scale that says a sex offender has to be below 75 to get a Level 1 designation.
Twenty of the points were based on the girl's age. But defense attorney Arthur Aidala said Taylor "wasn't targeting a young child. He was trying to get some female companionship for that night."
He also said it was irrelevant to count Taylor's conviction in a tax-return case against him in a sex-crime case. And he argued that because of Taylor's fame, "Putting his picture on the Internet damages him so much more than the average person."
Kelly disagreed, saying, "My God, there's been so much publicity already" that a posted photo wouldn't matter much.
In the end, the judge took 20 points off Taylor's score. But he laughed at some of Aidala's arguments. When Aidala said Taylor was a victim of a scheme to defraud him, the judge said, "I'm trying to keep a straight face." And when the lawyer talked about how Taylor helped the girl by giving her $300, the judge said, "This was a philanthropic endeavor?"
Taylor was sentenced last month to six years' probation.
The teenager made a surprise appearance at the sentencing hearing, eager to declare that he should be behind bars, but she wasn't allowed to speak in court. Speaking outside, she denied she was a prostitute, and said Taylor should have been able to tell she had been beaten by a pimp and that she was underage when they met in a hotel room in May.
Aidala said Taylor would be relieved to hear, "He's not going to be plastered all over the Internet."
"This chapter of Mr. Taylor's life is closed," he added.
In New York, Level 1 offenders aren't posted on a public website, but anyone who calls the state Criminal Justice Services Division can find out if a person is a sex offender. Aidala said the system was similar in Florida, where Taylor will be supervised.
Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He redefined the linebacker position and was selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
In 2009, he competed in ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."