Jury says Woods impostor should get ‘3 strikes’ term

Bee Staff Writer
(Published Jan. 10, 2001)

Anthony Lemar Taylor, the Sacramento man convicted of stealing the identity of golf superstar Tiger Woods to rack up $17,000 in credit card expenses, must now face a potential maximum sentence of 200-years-to-life in prison, a jury decided Tuesday.

However, depending on future court rulings, the sentence could theoretically be as low as nine years.

In finding that the 31-year-old man has previously been convicted of two felonies of robbery in the first degree, the jury’s verdict paves the way for Taylor’s sentencing under the state’s “three strikes” law.

But before the verdict was announced in court, Taylor told his defense lawyer and the judge that he no longer wanted any part of the proceedings.

“I want to get sentenced today. I want to get on with it. This is political,” Taylor told the judge as the jury waiting outside in the hallway.

“I’ve been fighting this case for a year and half. I’m tired. It’s a burden on my family. I never wanted to go to trial. The (prosecution) wanted the trial,” Taylor said.

Defense lawyer James R. Greiner urged the judge to not grant his client’s request. Greiner said he needed time to prepare a bid for a new trial.

The attorney said he would also formally ask the judge to ignore Taylor’s previous convictions, which would then only subject Taylor to a 9-year sentence. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael G. Virga refused to sentence the defendant on the spot, saying he wanted the benefit of a probation report, which would tell him more about Taylor’s background.

The judge set sentencing for March 9.

Taylor was convicted last week of eight felony theft and perjury counts. In a separate proceeding, the same jury, which convicted Taylor, had to decide if Taylor had indeed been previously convicted of crimes that qualify for “three strikes” penalties.

Deputy District Attorney Nicolle Liem told jurors that Taylor was convicted of two counts of first degree robbery on May 29, 1992, in Yolo County. There were two victims, she said.

Greiner argued that there was one conviction because the incident occurred on the same day at the same time. Some state prison records reflect only one conviction, he told jurors.

But though jurors said afterward that the defense attorney’s claim gave them some pause, the prosecutor convinced them in the end.

“We were asked to find if there were two separate crimes, and we found there were two crimes because there were two victims,” jury foreman Stan Wilkins said.

Taylor was convicted of using the identity of the well-known athlete to buy televisions, stereos, a used Lexus and other merchandise and services.

Woods was sneaked into the courthouse Dec. 18 and testified that among other things he never rented a U-Haul truck on Stockton Boulevard or applied for credit at Beck’s Furniture.

Woods, 25, also said he never gave Taylor permission to use his name, his Social Security number or his birth date to make the purchases at several Sacramento- area merchants from Aug. 17, 1998, to Aug. 6, 1999.

Prosecutor Liem told the jury that Taylor used Woods’ first name of “Eldrick” to obtain a Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license to help him get the store credit to purchase the goods and cash.

In Taylor’s defense, Greiner told jurors how improbable it was for anyone to get away with stealing the identity of the man who is known worldwide. He was recently named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.

“His demeanor was very astute,” said jury foreman Wilkins. “He answered all questions without hesitation. He was charming,” Wilkins said.

Another juror lamented the potential life sentence Taylor now faces. “It’s a shame. He is only 30 or so,” the male juror said.

One female juror said she was surprised to learn from a reporter that Taylor faced “three strikes” sentencing.

“We weren’t given that information, but I don’t think it would have changed anything,” she said.