NEW YORK -- Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor celebrated with a cigar 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.
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 court, Taylor signed a copy of the verdict sheet belonging to his lawyer, Arthur Aidala, and then spoke about his future and his past.
Asked to elaborate, he said: "I've done a lot of things I need to address. I look forward to going home."
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 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 occurred in his room at a Holiday Inn in Montebello, just north of New York, 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.
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."
Taylor, who played in the NFL for 13 seasons and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, already had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges of sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute and is serving six years of probation.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press