NEW YORK - NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor celebrated with a cigar on 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.
Taylor, who led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991, said he wanted to go home to Pembroke Pines, Fla., and "concentrate on my own broken life and try to repair that."
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 that 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 City, 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.
One of Fierro's lawyers, Nathan Goldberg, said after the verdict that the case gave Fierro a chance to stand up for herself after she was delivered "like a piece of meat to the hotel room where Lawrence Taylor had sex with her."
"(Fierro) believes that by bringing this case and the facts to light that she has stood up for herself and for other children and shown that they, too, can have a voice and let people know what happened to them," he said.
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."
He shook his head as he spoke quietly about his missed opportunity.
"I'm a sensitive person. I love people," he said. "She was in good hands."
During the trial, Fierro wept as she described the sexual encounter, saying the hulking Taylor failed to stop having sex with her even after she told him it hurt and tried to push him away.
"I kept telling him I didn't want to be there," she said. "He's much bigger than me. I couldn't do anything."
Taylor testified that Fierro "didn't seem to have a problem" and "didn't tell me to stop."
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, had already pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges of sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute and is serving six years of probation.
Outside court, he cited "changing times" and said there were many lessons to be learned from his encounter with Fierro and everything that came afterward.
"We're not in the '80s. We're not in the '90s anymore," he said. "You have to govern yourself accordingly."