Jan. 12, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The founder of a successful non-profit in the Rockaways has been accused of rape by one of the organization’s former staffers — and now his lawyer is trying to undermine the alleged victim’s account.
Milan Taylor, the founder of Rockaway Youth Task Force (RYTF), was accused of rape in an emotionally-charged tweet last month by the organization’s former Community Engagement Organizer Andrea Colon.
“Milan Taylor groomed, manipulated, gaslighted, bullied, harassed, sexually, emotionally, and verbally abused me,” Colon wrote in a series of tweets on Dec. 30. “At the age of 17, on February 24th, 2018, after midnight at the RYTF Office, Milan Taylor gave me alcohol and raped me despite my pleas.”
Colon said she “reluctantly” resigned from her position with the RYTF on Sept. 23, 2020 after the organization allegedly failed to hold Taylor accountable for what she called years of “abusive and toxic behaviors.” She had demanded Taylor resign from his post as executive director because he was allegedly unfit to lead a youth organization, she wrote on Twitter.
Taylor resigned from the job the following month, according to RYTF. The organization didn’t disclose the reason why.
Taylor wouldn’t comment on the allegations and directed the Queens Post to his lawyer. He hired an attorney following the public outcry stemming from Colon’s tweets.
His lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said the rape allegation is bogus and questioned Colon’s credibility. He issued a statement to Queens Post last week saying that she has “a massive motive to fabricate these accusations.”
Lichtman said Colon made up the story because she wasn’t promoted to the director position while she worked at RYTF and was denied unemployment benefits, as well as medical insurance coverage when she left.
But Colon has a legion of supporters who say they believe her story — including former workers at RYTF. Colon’s tweets describing the alleged abuse have received dozens of retweets and comments of support.
In addition, at least three other former RYFT employees have come forward with stories of their own accusing Taylor of mental abuse.
But Taylor’s lawyer argues that Colon’s rape accusation stems from a personal vendetta.
“These allegations of rape come conveniently after Colon [unsuccessfully] sought my client’s removal as director of the RYTF and her own unsuccessful elevation to director of the organization, as well as the denial of unemployment benefits and loss of her medical insurance coverage,” he said in a statement.
Lichtman — who has defended high profile clients like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and John Gotti Jr. — also claims that Colon and Taylor dated for a year after the alleged rape.
“So far we’ve seen a massive online public relations push, along with Milan being criticized for daring to hire a lawyer to defend him — but no corroborating evidence of any rape,” he added.
The lawyer claimed that Colon didn’t report the alleged rape at the time it happened and that she never visited a hospital or requested medical attention afterwards.
Colon did not respond to the Queens Post for comment and the NYPD would not confirm whether she filed a police report for the alleged rape or not.
“Online allegations are not evidence,” Lichtman said. “Prosecutors know this. Defense lawyers know this. Juries know this. If charges are brought against Milan they’ll end with an acquittal.”
But several elected officials and many of her former co-workers do not doubt Colon’s story.
Local Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato was one of the first officials to publicly support Colon.
“I fully believe Andrea Colon’s account of @MilanRTaylor’s abuse and predatory behavior,” Pheffer Amato tweeted on Dec. 31. “I also commend her bravery in sharing this painful account, which I can only imagine hurt everyday she had to bear it alone. Andrea deserves swift and meaningful support and justice.”
Days later, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said he believes Colon’s accusations and called for a criminal investigation.
Tiffany Cabán, candidate for the Astoria council seat, also offered her support to Colon as did Rep. Gregory Meeks and recently elected Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson, who has previously worked for the RYTF as a senior organizer.
Anderson issued a statement regarding the allegations against Taylor on Jan. 4.
“The allegations by young women of the Rockaway Youth Task Force (RYTF) against Milan R. Taylor has overwhelmed me with agonizing sadness,” he wrote. “I commend the bravery of the survivors who have already come forward to share their traumatic accounts.”
Colon said Taylor, who founded RYTF in 2011, has used his position of power to prey on girls and young women of color for years.
She said that Taylor’s behavior had been called out multiple times, but no action was taken.
In June 2014, Taylor was arrested for choking his girlfriend at the time, who also worked at RYTF, after she refused to have sex with him at the organization’s Far Rockaway office, according to a Wave article from that year.
Taylor accepted a plea deal in exchange for a lesser charge and was required to attend eight weeks of anger management counseling, the local paper reported.
Despite his arrest, Taylor remained executive director of RYTF for six more years – until October 2020.
His replacement, Executive Director Jazmine Outlaw, said that Taylor resigned in October. She added the organization has removed its old board of directors and replaced it with a new one that is 100 percent women of color.
“I am saddened by these allegations and I am taking them very seriously,” Outlaw said in a statement. “I am deeply sorry for the harm that has been felt by young women.”
Two former RYTF employees who said Taylor was mentally abusive shared their experiences on Twitter as well.
“There had never been anyone in my life, professional and/or personal, that had pushed me to the brink of mental distress like this man did,” María José Delgado Ureche wrote about Taylor.
During her three months working for RYTF, she said she even witnessed Taylor bullying the young people the organization was set up to serve. Delgado Ureche said she tried to challenge his behavior, but Taylor allegedly fired her for bringing it up.
Another woman, Sheneca Sharpe, said Taylor “abused, traumatized, and belittled” her on a daily basis during the six months she was employed at RYTF. She ended up quitting after suffering multiple anxiety attacks during work, she said.
Neither the NYPD or the Queens District Attorney’s Office would say whether they were investigating the allegations against Taylor.
“The Queens District Attorney’s Office takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously and when warranted investigates thoroughly…,” a spokeswoman for the Queens DA told the Queens Post. “However, we cannot comment on an on-going investigation or even confirm if an investigation is underway.”
However, Assembly Member Anderson said his office has been actively working with law enforcement to investigate the allegations against Taylor and the Queens Eagle reported that the NYPD Special Victims Unit is investigating the alleged rape.
Both the NYPD and the Queens District Attorney’s Office encourage any victims of sexual abuse to file a police report or contact the NYPD’s Queens Special Victims Squad at 718-520-9277.