Originally created 12/01/99

Taylor pleads no contest to cocaine charges



CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Hall of Fame Lawrence Taylor dropped his argument of entrapment and pleaded no contest Tuesday to drug charges.

Circuit Judge Lauren Laughlin withheld a finding of guilt, but said she was prepared to sentence Taylor to 18 months' probation. That would mean he would have no criminal record in this case if he successfully completes probation.

She set sentencing for Feb. 1, and ordered Taylor to pay about $1,250 court costs and the cost of the police investigation.

"I'm not answering nothing," the 40-year-old former NFL great said when asked as he left the courthouse why he changed his earlier plea of innocent and dropped allegations that police in St. Pete Beach trapped him into buying crack cocaine last year.

He also was charged with possession of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

Taylor's lawyer had earlier asked the judge to dismiss the charges, insisting the retired linebacker of the New York Giants entrapped by police. Angelo Ferlita said police used an informant to set up Taylor, preying on the retired football star because of his history of drug abuse.

Ferlita said it wasn't easy to get Taylor to switch his plea, calling the former player a competitor.

"It's kind of tough to swallow that pill, but now he's in a situation where he can move on with his life," Ferlita said, noting Taylor's appearance in the film "On Any Given Sunday" with Al Pacino, due for release Christmas Day.

The plea came during a pretrial hearing. Police informant Clemente Brown took the stand and said Taylor approached him to buy drugs.

Ferlita did not dispute that. However, he tried to portray Brown as a cocaine addict who hoped to score more drugs from Taylor. And when he didn't, he went to police and offered to set up the ex-player.

Taylor, of Saddle River, N.J., was charged in October 1998 in St. Pete Beach.

"You don't take drugs to somebody's hotel room at two in the morning when they have a drug addiction," Ferlita said.

Taylor was arrested on similar charges two years ago in South Carolina. He enrolled in a program that enabled him to clear the charges from his record by completing 60 hours of community service and submitting to drug counseling and random drug testing.

Taylor, who helped the Giants win two Super Bowls during a 13-year career, also underwent rehabilitation for a cocaine problem in 1985. He was suspended by the NFL two years later for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The informant who helped police make the arrest said in a deposition that Taylor approached him when he was in town for a charity golf tournament.

Brown said the relationship started when Taylor introduced himself and asked if Brown could help find crack cocaine.

After Brown informed St. Pete Beach police, investigators listened in as Brown telephoned Taylor at his hotel on Oct. 18, 1998 to set up the deal.

Taylor was nervous because police had stopped him earlier in the day and at first he put Brown off. Several hours later, an uninvited Brown knocked at Taylor's door with an undercover police officer posing as his wife.

After a discussion, Taylor held up a $50 bill and the officer provided the crack. Taylor was then arrested.