TODAY

TODAY   |  May 07, 2010

LT’s lawyer: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’

After many past run-ins with the law, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor now faces rape charges involving a teen. His attorney, Arthur Aidala, and agent, Mark Lepselter, speak with TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MATT LAUER, co-host: Let's begin this half-hour with the -- with the arrest of pro football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor . We're going to talk exclusively to his lawyer and his agent in a moment, but first, NBC 's Peter Alexander has the latest. Peter , good morning to you.

PETER ALEXANDER reporting: Matt , good morning. Nice to see you. Lawrence Taylor has had plenty of run-ins with the law but never anything like this, charges of raping a 16-year-old girl who police say was beaten and then forced to meet Taylor at his hotel. When police arrived early Thursday morning Taylor was asleep, but when he woke up it was another legal nightmare. Leaving a suburban New York City courthouse Thursday, 51-year-old Lawrence Taylor faced a crush of cameras and harsh new allegations. Police say Taylor had sex with a 16-year-old runaway Thursday morning at this Holiday Inn .

Mr. PETER BROWER (Ramapo Police Chief): The investigation indicates that Mr. Taylor engaged in sexual intercourse with a child less than 17 for which he paid the victim $300.

ALEXANDER: Wearing black and handcuffs, Taylor appeared nervous in court. His sexual encounter , investigators say, was arranged by a pimp who punched and kicked the girl, drove her to Taylor 's hotel, and told her she had to have sex with the former NFL star. Once considered the most feared defensive player in football, Lawrence Taylor tried to showcase his softer side on last year's " Dancing with the Stars ." Taylor 's attorney insists his client is innocent.

Mr. ARTHUR AIDALA (Lawrence Taylor's Attorney): My client did not have sex with anybody, no. Period. Amen.

ALEXANDER: In the past, Taylor hasn't shied away from his fondness for prostitutes during his playing days.

Mr. LAWRENCE TAYLOR: Knock on the door, you open the door , and you got two beautiful women sitting there like, we for you, and I'm like, hey, you're in the right place .

ALEXANDER: The troubled athlete has struggled with drug addiction and has had several run-ins with the law.

Mr. PABLO TORRE (Reporter, Sports Illustrated): In the past he's been involved with crack cocaine arrests at least three times, with tax evasion in 2000 , when he was put on five years probation for filing false returns and evading the IRS .

ALEXANDER: A&E recently profiled Taylor as part of a new documentary called " Fame and Recovery ," reairing next month.

Mr. TAYLOR: Let me take a hit at this and I'll worry about that tomorrow. And I , you know, that's what drugs do to you.

ALEXANDER: Now facing allegations of rape, another troubled chapter in the saga of one of sports' greatest stars. Authorities say the victim, again a teenaid -- a teenage runaway, sent a text message to her uncle after the alleged assault and then her uncle then alerted police . The alleged pimp, his name is Rasheed Davis , was also arrested on charges of assault and unlawful imprisonment. If convicted of rape, Lawrence Taylor could face up to four years behind bars , Matt.

LAUER: All right, Peter Alexander . Peter , thank you very much . Mark Lepselter is Lawrence Taylor 's close friend and agent. Arthur Aidala is Taylor 's attorney. Guys, good morning to both of you.

Mr. MARK LEPSELTER (Lawrence Taylor's Agent): Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: At face value , this doesn't look very good, guys, and yet, you say he's denying these charges and preparing to fight . What don't we understand?

Mr. AIDALA: What you don't understand is what happens basically, Matt , in every case. In every criminal case when you walk in in the arraignment, the prosecutor, right at the trial, in their opening statement , paints this devastating picture. And then how many people walk out of -- walk out of a courtroom. How many people are acquitted or found not guilty. Don't judge a book by its cover. Lawrence Taylor will have his day. Lawrence Taylor will say what happened, and more importantly, Matt , what didn't happen.

LAUER: Well, there are also people who are found guilty after charges.

Mr. AIDALA: Right.

LAUER: So let's talk about what did and did not happen. Did Lawrence Taylor have sex with this young lady , a 16-year-old, in his hotel room ?

Mr. AIDALA: No.

LAUER: Did he have consensual sex with her?

Mr. AIDALA: No.

LAUER: Did she go to his hotel room ?

Mr. AIDALA: I'm not going to get into those facts. Those facts will be litigated in the courtroom when she's on the stand and she's cross-examined by me at a trial.

LAUER: Well, what you said is no, no, to the sex and consensual sex; you would not say no to the fact of whether she was in that hotel room with Lawrence Taylor or not.

Mr. AIDALA: I'm answering the question that would be at issue at trial, which is, according to the case law , according to the -- to the law, the legal system , did he commit those crimes? The answer is no.

LAUER: Does he know this gentleman, Rasheed Davis , this gentleman who is alleged to be the person who arranged this encounter?

Mr. AIDALA: No.

Mr. LEPSELTER: Not that I'm aware of. No.

LAUER: No? He's never heard of him before?

Mr. AIDALA: No.

Mr. LEPSELTER: No.

LAUER: I know that Lawrence Taylor 's wife has said, Lynette , has said she thinks this is a set-up.

Mr. LEPSELTER: I don't know that the folks involved here are sophisticated enough to arrange a set-up, but we'll -- you know, Lynette 's certainly entitled to, you know, her opinion. I don't -- I don't think that necessarily is the case.

LAUER: You know, I think one of things, and whether this is going to come up in court or be even admissible, Arthur , is a question, but, you know, Lawrence Taylor 's own words from that interview in 2004 where he talked about escort services and prostitution...

Mr. AIDALA: Matt. Yeah.

LAUER: I mean, is that going to come back to haunt him with these charges?

Mr. LEPSELTER: That interview was conducted in 2003 referring to Lawrence Taylor 's playing days in the '80s. I would like to think it would not be attributed to the circumstances today. That was an interview, a long-ranging interview, from an autobiography he had done in 2003 .

Mr. AIDALA: And obviously, Matt , that would not be admissible. Those -- he was talking about things that happened 30 years ago. That's, as I would like to classify, the old Lawrence Taylor , not the recent Lawrence Taylor , who's been very not -- 12 years he's been sober.

LAUER: Well, I know that, and you guys think this is a man who's come an awfully long way, but he is a guy who's fought with demons in the past, both drugs and tax evasion . And why should his fans not believe that his demons have somehow jumped up to grab him once again?

Mr. LEPSELTER: Well, when you refer -- you're referring to the demons of the past, you know. Lawrence has been clean since October of 1998 . It's pretty well-documented. He has done -- an immense amount to get his personal life in order. I think in a lot of respects, yes, amongst football fans , Giant fans, he's a beloved figure. I don't think this has anything to do with demons of the past that have been out there.

Mr. AIDALA: Matt , we should be clear is Lawrence Taylor never saw a woman who was beaten or hurt or anything like that. If he did see that he would call 911, he would get help. That's the kind of guy Lawrence Taylor is in 2010 , OK? He never had sex with any underage women , consensual or otherwise. And the -- every single thing that was said in court yesterday will be litigated to the fullest extent of the law.

LAUER: All right, Arthur and Mark , thank you both for joining us...

Mr. LEPSELTER: Thank you.