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BILLS' HENRY GUILTY OF SEX CHARGE

Bills rookie running back Travis Henry pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a possible felony rape charge in connection with a sexual incident with a 15-year-old girl last month.

Henry, 22, pleaded guilty in Hamburg Town Court to a misdemeanor charge of attempted sexual misconduct for having consensual sex with the girl in his home Sept. 23, authorities said. The girl told Henry she was almost 18.

Sentencing before Hamburg Town Justice Gerald P. Gorman is set tentatively for Nov. 9. The sentence, while not expected to result in any jail time, probably will include some community service, sources said.

Under state law, an adult can face a statutory rape charge for having sex with someone under 17, regardless of whether there is consent.

Both sides insisted that Henry received no special treatment as a sports figure.

"I try these cases in the same manner, regardless of who the parties are," Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said. "I don't care who the (defendant) is, a ditchdigger, a professional athlete or a student. It makes no difference to me."

Terrence M. Connors, Henry's attorney, suggested that the public spotlight on this case ensured that Henry wouldn't receive any special treatment.

"Travis will be the first to admit that it was an exercise of poor judgment," Connors said. "But the fact that he is a football star means that the scrutiny was more intense, not less intense."

Connors emphasized that Henry, as a professional athlete in the public eye, did not attempt to run away from his role in this incident.

"He accepted personal responsibility for his error in judgment," the defense attorney said following the court appearance.

Investigators have determined that Henry met the 15-year-old runaway from a detention home for girls Sept. 23 at a Camp Road gas station after he returned from the Bills game in Indianapolis. They went to Henry's residence to watch television, and that's where the sexual incident occurred, authorities have said.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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