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SEX CHARGES EXPECTED FOR BILLS RUNNING BACK

Buffalo Bills running back Travis Henry faces criminal charges that are expected to be lodged next week in connection with a sex-related incident involving a 15-year-old girl in his home, law enforcement officials said.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that Henry likely would be offered a plea arrangement that would allow him to avoid a statutory rape charge in exchange for a guilty plea to a yet-to-be-determined misdemeanor charge.

Charges could be filed as early as Monday or Tuesday, officials said.

"I've just become involved," said Henry's attorney, Terrence M. Connors. "I'm talking to Travis and trying to find out the underlying facts and exploring all the options."

Investigators have been looking into the incident since Sept. 23, when two girls escaped from Hopevale Union Free School, a detention home for girls in Hamburg.

Investigators said Henry, 22, had returned with the Bills from their game in Indianapolis and met the girls, 15 and 14, during a chance encounter at a Camp Road gas station.

The three went to watch television at Henry's house, where the sexual encounter is alleged to have taken place with one of the girls, who apparently told Henry she was 18.

Sources said Henry acknowledged having sex with the girl but said he didn't know she was a juvenile.

Henry had not been charged as of Thursday. The rookie was in Jacksonville for the Bills' game against the Jaguars.

Hamburg Police Chief Joseph Coggins would say only that the case was under investigation. Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark would not comment on the case.

A person who is older than 21 can be charged with statutory rape for having sexual intercourse with someone younger than 17, regardless of consent. However, authorities generally treat cases differently when one person is in the early 20s and the other is in the midteens.

Sources said prosecutors might be willing to give Henry leniency because the girl admitted lying about her age and said she was not forced into having sex, and because Henry has no prior criminal record.

The Bills have been aware of the inquiry for more than a week. President and General Manager Tom Donahoe would not comment on the case.

"Until there's something that officially comes out, I can't respond," Donahoe said from Jacksonville.

e-mail: bgleason@buffnews.com

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