New Orleans police have arrested a young man accused of drugging and raping an Edna Karr High School student and taking nude photographs of the teenager as she lay unconscious on his bed.
Taylor Taitt, an 18-year-old who graduated from Karr in May, was booked Thursday on counts of simple rape, video voyeurism and pornography involving juveniles, according to authorities.
The investigation began this spring after at least two students at the school told the 16-year-old girl that Taitt had shown them photographs and a video of her lying naked and apparently unconscious on his bed, according to recently filed court documents. The images were said to have been stored on an iPhone 6, according to an application for a search warrant.
“One of her friends mentioned that Taitt confessed to drugging and having sex with her, then bragging about how she wasn’t able to handle him sexually,” a detective wrote in the court filing.
The 16-year-old told authorities she never consented to having sex with Taitt or to being photographed.
She said the incident must have occurred at Taitt’s home in New Orleans East, where she spent several nights after running away. Police said the rape happened Jan. 19 inside a residence in the 6000 block of Bamberry Street.
The girl told police she had smoked marijuana several times during her stay with Taitt, and that, on at least one occasion, “it caused her to black out and fall into a deep sleep,” according to the search warrant application. “The victim believes during this time, Taitt took advantage of her and sexually assaulted her,” the document says.
Police seized Taitt’s cellphone and found two photographs of the 16-year-old naked and with her eyes closed.
After learning about the illicit images, Karr officials took measures to educate students — including holding special seminars — on the dangers of cyberbullying, said Jamar McKneely, chief executive officer of InspireNOLA Charter Schools.
“Before we had even seen the video, the school administration team talked to students about cyberbullying and the importance of making sure our kids were protected and at all times taken care of,” McKneely said. “For us, it was important we address this extremely fast. The last thing we want is a whole ripple effect.”
McKneely initially said Taitt had been removed from the school for an unrelated disciplinary matter. But he said in a subsequent interview Thursday that Taitt, in fact, had been allowed to graduate this spring. He noted that the arrest warrant was not issued until June 23, saying no disciplinary action had been taken against Taitt by the school because no charges had been filed.
McKneely insisted that students had seen the illicit images only off campus and that there had been no allegations the photographs were circulating at the school. However, Detective Jessica Williams wrote in Taitt’s arrest warrant that the victim had been told “that a naked photograph of her was circulating around school.”
Taitt, an incoming freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta, turned himself in to authorities Thursday morning. At an afternoon court appearance, Commissioner Jonathan Friedman set his bail at $100,000 over the objection of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, which sought a higher amount. Taitt, who has no prior convictions, is the son of Herman Taitt, a former administrator for the Orleans Parish School Board who left the district last year.
Taitt’s attorney, Gerard Archer, would not discuss the particulars of the allegations but said, “If this was a consensual act of sex, this would be a misdemeanor,” given the age of the girl.
Outside the courtroom, Archer said that Williams, the NOPD detective, had first interviewed Taitt on May 5. She wanted to interview him again, but Archer, who had just signed on as Taitt’s attorney, refused.
Instead, he offered to meet with Williams and provide her the names of witnesses. The detective declined, Archer said, which he said showed “a total disregard to conduct a full investigation.”
“My client’s presumed innocent,” Archer added.
Editor’s note: This story was changed July 9 to correct misinformation provided by McKneely; he initially said Taitt had been expelled from Edna Karr High School.
Staff writer John Simerman contributed to this report. Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter @JimMustian