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Taylor is sentenced _ quietly

The former football star, who pleaded no contest to buying crack cocaine, is placed on 18 months' probation.

Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor came into his drug case angrily proclaiming entrapment and running from television cameras.

But on Tuesday he shut the door on the matter in a different way: walking purposefully from the Pinellas criminal courthouse, declining comment.

Taylor, who previously had pleaded no contest to charges he bought crack cocaine from an undercover informant in St. Pete Beach, on Tuesday received the agreed-upon sentence of 18 months' probation and no formal finding of guilt.

He also was ordered to undergo random drug testing and pay $1,250 in court costs.

Clad in a black trench coat and sandals, Taylor stood before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Lauren C. Laughlin for just a few minutes before the case was resolved.

It had begun more than a year ago in Room 509 of the Sandpiper Resort in St. Pete Beach. Taylor, a former New York Giants All-Pro linebacker, was in town for a charity golf event to benefit Abilities of Florida, a non-profit organization serving the disabled.

Police said they heard from a confidential informant that Taylor was cruising St. Petersburg neighborhoods in search of crack. About 2 a.m., an undercover detective and a confidential informant who were wired for surveillance, knocked on the door of Taylor's hotel room.

Other officers were listening as the deal went down: three rocks of cocaine for $50.

Taylor, then 39, had a different version of the events that led to his arrest. While his drug addiction problems have been well publicized over the years, Taylor's lawyer said his client did not intend to buy cocaine.

The lawyer said the informant badgered Taylor about buying drugs for 12 hours despite Taylor's repeated refusals. Finally, Taylor bought the crack to get rid of him.

"I was set up . . . like a sucker," Taylor said in the days after his arrest.

Taylor talked about fighting the charges and suing the St. Pete Beach Police Department. However, he surprised those involved in his case two months ago when he decided to take a plea deal.

During recent interviews in Los Angeles promoting Oliver Stone's film Any Given Sunday, Taylor told reporters he was more interested in moving on with his life than fighting the charges.

"Even if I win, (prosecutors) get to appeal and I still have to fight this thing for two years. I ain't got time to wait around for two years. I mean, for two years we'd sit around over some bull---t and keep going back and forth down to Tampa (Bay). To me, it didn't make no sense."

Taylor's attorney, Robert H. Nutter, of Tampa, asked Laughlin Tuesday whether she would consider terminating Taylor's probation early, in nine months, if he successfully serves until that time. She said she would.

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