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Florida man sentenced to almost 60 years for killing NFL star

Eric Rivera, Jr. stands as the jury enters the courtroom during closing arguments of the Sean Taylor murder trial in Miami, Florida October
Eric Rivera, Jr. stands as the jury enters the courtroom during closing arguments of the Sean Taylor murder trial in Miami, Florida October

MIAMI (Reuters) - A 23-year-old man convicted of second-degree murder in the 2007 killing of Washington Redskins football star Sean Taylor was sentenced to 57-1/2 years in prison on Thursday.

Eric Rivera Jr. had also been found guilty of armed burglary in the slaying of Taylor during a botched burglary at the football player's Miami-area home.

Convicted by a jury in November, Rivera admitted in a videotaped confession to police that he shot Taylor, but he later testified during the trial that authorities pressured him into the confession.

Wearing a prison jumpsuit, Rivera apologized to members of Taylor's family before his sentencing. He faced as much as a life sentence.

"My words may not mean much," Rivera said. "Over these past six years, I learned Mr. Taylor was a good man and I'm not making excuses for my decisions or my actions. But I just wanted to say that I live with it everyday and I'm going to have to live with the consequences and I'm truly sorry for your loss."

During an 11-day trial, prosecutors said Rivera, who was charged with first-degree murder, and four co-defendants hatched a burglary plot after one of the group visited Taylor's house and saw him give his sister $10,000 in cash.

Rivera was arrested less than a week after the shooting.

Prosecutors also presented cellphone records showing calls relayed to and from Rivera's phone through a tower near Taylor's home and a print of a Nike Shox sneaker found near the concrete wall around the house.

While Rivera confessed to owning a pair of the sneakers, defense attorneys said the videotaped confession came after a lengthy interrogation during which Rivera was denied food and phone calls.

Defense attorneys argued that investigators ambushed Rivera outside of his home, confiscated his cellphone and shuttled him to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement building, the location of which was not widely known.

Rivera was one of five young men charged with murder, home invasion and burglary.

Taylor was an All-American at the University of Miami who led the nation in interceptions in 2003. The Redskins selected him fifth overall in the 2004 National Football League draft and he became a starter after three games.

(Reporting Zachary Fagenson; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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