Eric Rivera, the 23-year-old confessed killer of Washington Redskins star safety in 2007 was sentenced to 57 years in a Florida state prison.
Rivera was one of five Fort Myers-area men charged with Taylor’s death after they broke into his house looking to steal cash. One defendant has pleaded guilty and three others are still awaiting trial. They thought the victim would be in Tampa Bay with the Redskins.
In the confession, Rivera, who is 23 and was 17 at the time of the shooting, admitted to pulling the trigger when Taylor, home with his girlfriend and young child, confronted the group of teens in his bedroom.
“He lost his life defending and protecting his family,” said Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin in a closing statement. “They kicked the door in and they shot him and killed him, for no good reason.”
Testifying in his own defense last fall, Rivera claimed the confession was false and improperly coerced, and that someone else in the group shot Taylor with a 9 mm handgun. A jury convicted him of second-degree murder and armed burglary. He was originally charged with first-degree murder but was ineligible for the death penalty because he was 17 years old at the time of the killing.
In a brief statement, Rivera told members of Taylor’s family he was sorry for the killing and that Taylor was “a good man.”
“I live with his death every day. I’m going to have to deal with the consequences,” he said.
Several Rivera family members pleaded for leniency, noting that Rivera was still a minor at the time and that he had never been in trouble with the law prior to this charge. But Rubin said Rivera had committed perjury in his testimony and tried to influence the testimony of others in his case.
“He’s a sophisticated, manipulative criminal. There’s no good reason to believe he will change,” Rubin said.
Rivera could have gotten life behind bars. His lawyers are planning to appeal his conviction.
Taylor, a first-round pick by the Redskins in the 2004 draft, was a hard-hitting Pro Bowl safety who had previously starred at the University of Miami. He was shot during the November 2007 confrontation in the upper thigh, damaging his femoral artery, which led to massive blood loss. Taylor was 24 years old when he died.
His girlfriend at the time, Jackie Garcia Haley, and their then-18-month-old daughter were in the room with Taylor when the confrontation occurred. Garcia Haley, in a statement read by Rubin, said Taylor’s death was difficult to bear — particularly for their daughter, also named Jackie.
“You only get one dad and hers is gone. It breaks my heart to pieces to go through each day and each milestone without him,” she said.