Lawrence Taylor’s prostitution saga has finally come to an end. On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at a hearing to determine the terms of his six-year probation for sexual misconduct, Judge William Kelly classified Taylor as a low-level sex-offender. This means Taylor’s photo and information will not made public on New York’s online sex-offender registry.
Under New York law, Taylor still qualifies as a sex offender because he pled guilty to sexual misconduct, a violation of New York Penal Law Section 130.20, and thus, he must still register as a sex offender. Rockland County Court Judge William Kelly based his decision in part because “Taylor was not targeting children and [he] was unlikely to commit the same crime.” As to a posted photo, he said, “I don’t see how that’s going to make the public any safer.”
I want to spend the rest of this blog discussing the judge’s “public safety” statement and its relation to Taylor’s sentence. In criminal law, there are two main theories of justice: 1- retributive justice, which advocates that a punishment should fit the crime, and 2- utilitarian justice, which focuses on how punishment can maximize society’s overall good (i.e. through deterrence, rehabilitation, or security). Regardless of which theory one believes is the most effective or just, both seek to ensure public safety.
Before I continue, I want to be clear that I am in no way condoning Taylor’s actions or the actions of any person convicted of a sex offense. Their crimes are among the most egregious and morally offensive acts that any person can commit, and they should not be tolerated or dealt with lightly.
That being said, I think Taylor’s sentence and its terms, as set forth by Judge Kelly, were appropriate because they ensure public safety. As I said earlier, I am not excusing Taylor’s acts, but I do believe that those calling for a harsher sentence are wrong because it would neither increase public safety nor further rehabilitate or deter Taylor. Furthermore, the sentence-terms were not a product of Taylor’s high-profile lawyer, Arthur Aidala. For example, when Aidala argued that because of Taylor’s fame, an online photo would do more damage him substantially more than the average person, the judge laughed and said that an online photo would not further damage Taylor’s image because the case had already received a considerable amount of publicity.
In sum, let us all hope that Taylor’s attorney is right when he says, “this chapter of Mr. Taylor’s life is closed.”