Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor will need to refrain from spitting for the next 18 months, the duration of his probation.
Taylor pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery charges Thursday, and Circuit Judge Leonard Glick warned the former University of Miami star that he had better stay out of trouble during his probation. "If you get caught speeding on the roadway, if you get caught spitting on the sidewalk . . . you violate your probation," Glick told Taylor.
Taylor was thrown out of a Redskins-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in January for spitting on a Buccaneers player.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped more serious felony charges against Taylor. The judge also withheld adjudication, which means Taylor won't have a criminal record if he successfully completes the probation.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said players have been disciplined in the past for misdemeanor convictions.
"This matter will be reviewed for possible discipline under the league's personal conduct policy," he said.
Wearing a rumpled, light tan suit and short braids, Taylor stumbled over his words as he tried to explain to Glick that he didn't think he did anything wrong last summer when he was arrested.
"This is obviously, it's kind of a hard pill for me to swallow because obviously this is something I do not think I'm guilty of," the 23-year-old said.
Glick cut him off.
"Those reasons don't matter to me, with all due respect," the judge said. "You can move on with your life in any way that you want as long as you comply with the special conditions of probation."
The conditions: Taylor must visit students at 10 schools in South Miami-Dade County and tell them to stay in school and out of trouble. Taylor also is required to give a $1,000 scholarship to each school.
The case against Taylor stemmed from an incident last June when the football player was charged with waving a gun at a group of people he suspected of stealing his all-terrain vehicle. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a weapon, a felony, and one count each of simple assault and simple battery, both misdemeanors.
Prosecutors dropped the felonies on Thursday. Assistant State Attorney Abe Laeser told Glick that his office believed the facts didn't support the felony charges.
Had the case gone to trial, Laeser said, he would have proven that Taylor went to the house of the man he believed stole his all-terrain vehicle and "made certain demands or threats" - an assault - and that later Taylor went back and got in a tussle with people in front of the house - a battery.
Outside the courtroom, Taylor said he was glad the case was over.
"I think this is in the best interest of my family, my friends, my team," he said.
He and his attorneys maintained that he was the victim, prosecuted only because he's a celebrity.
"It's unequivocally clear that the original prosecutor was ego-driven," attorney Richard Sharpstein said.
Sharpstein had asked a judge to drop the charges against Taylor because the original prosecutor, Michael Grieco, had posted a link on his personal website to news articles about the case.
Grieco was taken off the case and has since left the state attorney's office.
After Thursday's hearing, Grieco pointed out that he had offered Taylor the same plea deal months ago.
"I feel completely vindicated that he accepted responsibility and accepted a plea that I was trying to work out before all the nonsense started," Grieco said. "I was offering a withhold with probation months ago."