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Florida man, 23, denies involvement in shooting death of NFL player

Oct. 30, 2013 at 12:32 PM   |   Comments

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MIAMI, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A Florida man on trial in the slaying of NFL player Sean Taylor testified he never entered Taylor's home during a botched burglary that led to Taylor's death.

Testifying in his own defense, Eric Rivera Jr. told a Miami court he did not know what was going to happen when he and several friends drove across the state to Taylor's Miami-area home, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

Taylor, 24, a free safety for the Washington Redskins, died after he was shot in the leg during the 2007 break-in.

Rivera, 23, of Fort Myers, had confessed to shooting Taylor, but rejected the statement in court, saying he admitted to the killing to protect his family.

"I thought they might be in danger or something," he said.

Under cross-examination, Rivera told prosecutor Reid Rubin the tools used in the burglary came from his yard. He then backed away from that statement, saying they belonged to Charles Wardlow, who also is charged in the crime, but that Wardlow had left them in his yard.

He also denied ever calling co-defendant Jason Mitchell, even though phone records introduced as evidence showed he and Mitchell talked several times the night of the burglary and shooting.

Rivera acknowledged asking a cousin to try to get a key witness to change testimony.

After Rivera's testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys both rested their cases. Closing arguments were expected to begin Wednesday afternoon.

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