HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A judge Friday rejected former NFL star Lawrence Taylor's attempt to bar the news media from court proceedings involving him and the mother of a 12-year-old girl he fathered but has never met.
Ebony Washington of Secaucus, N.J., is seeking to have child-support payments increased for her daughter, who has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Taylor has filed a cross-claim to have the amount reduced. The child currently receives $456 per week, according to Washington's attorney, Debra Weisberg.
Taylor's attorney, James Key Jr., said the former New York Giants linebacker has never missed a support payment and that news stories have portrayed him unfairly as a deadbeat.
Key pointed to a New York Post article in November that bore the headline "LT Tackles Ex On Kid Support." It features a photo of Taylor superimposed over a picture of a courtroom. Taylor didn't show up for a November court hearing because of a medical condition, according to his lawyer.
The article "implies that Mr. Taylor was not adequately supporting this child," Key told state Superior Court Judge Peter Melchionne on Friday.
Melchionne agreed that the headline might have portrayed Taylor in a negative light, but he dismissed the notion that the media coverage has been harmful to his daughter -- particularly because Taylor has made no court filings to that effect.
"He speculates and acts like he's an expert on what's best for this child," Weisberg told the judge. "Mr. Taylor has an issue with the New York Post article because [he] doesn't like what was written about him."
Melchionne noted that family-court hearings normally are open to the public unless there are issues of child neglect or abuse involved, and Taylor's case is "strictly an economic case."
Allowing the public in "might even be more important when there is someone of celebrity status, because otherwise they might think that special favors were given to them just because they have a title," the judge said.
Taylor, dressed in a black short-sleeved shirt and black slacks, didn't comment after the proceeding and spoke during the hearing only when Melchionne asked whether he had mailed a letter to an insurance company.
Taylor, who in 1999 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has lived a post-NFL life marred by missteps. He was arrested in New York's Westchester County last May and charged with raping a 16-year-old runaway who said she'd been forced into prostitution. In January he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute, two misdemeanors, and was sentenced to six years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.
He has been arrested several times on drug charges and, in 2000, received five years' probation on federal tax charges.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press