« Plaxico Burress cuts a plea deal requiring two-year prison term for his gun possession | Main | Debate and drama continues in California over prison and sentencing reform »

August 20, 2009

"Fans talking like lawyers over Burress, Stallworth"

The title of this article is the headline of this AP articlenoting that it is hard to avoid comparing the crimes and punishments of NFL players Plaxico Burress, Donte Stallworth and Michael Vick.  Here is a snippet:

Of the first 10 reader comments about the story posted on NFL.com, half mentioned Stallworth or Vick.  "The legal system is a joke" began the title of one thread on the message board on the Giants' Web site.  And so it went throughout cyberspace, with debate about whether Burress' sentence was too severe inevitably comparing his punishment to that of the two other players.

Stallworth, the Cleveland Browns receiver, served 30 days in jail for running over and killing a man while driving drunk.  Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback who recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, served 18 months in prison for torturing animals and running a dogfighting ring for years.  With time off for good behavior, Burress will likely serve 20 months.

High-profile cases often provide the public with a skewed sense of the realities of sentencing justice.  The ultimate outcomes in these three cases, however, may provide a rough reflection of modern sentencing realities.  As I often complain on this blog, drunk driving sentences tend to be quite lenient in light of the profound harms that drunk driving causes, and yet many "regulatory" crimes can result in more prison time than may seem essential.

Though I am not prepared to say the legal system is a joke, I will continue to view the Second Amendment as a joke even after Heller due to the fact that Burress ended up with the most prison time of these NFL criminals simply for accidently shooting himself while possessing a gun for self-defense.

August 20, 2009 at 10:42 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Fans talking like lawyers over Burress, Stallworth":


First, star football players who don't want to live under such gun laws should petition to be traded to the Cowboys or the Texans. It's easy to get a CHL here, and even without one it's legal to carry your handgun in your car (though not into a bar) if it's not in plain sight and you're legally allowed to own it.

I agree the legal system is not a joke. It's much more like slapstick physical humor. There's usually no punchline, but often you can't help but laugh anyway when it falls on its face. (You have to appreciate dark humor, though.)

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 21, 2009 7:38:22 AM

"Though I am not prepared to say the legal system is a joke, I will continue to view the Second Amendment as a joke even after Heller due to the fact that Burress ended up with the most prison time of these NFL criminals simply for accidently shooting himself while possessing a gun for self-defense."

I do not think that is correct. Burress was carrying a gun that was not licensed in the state of NY. Burress does not have a permit to carry a gun (and I am sorry, I want the right to carry a gun regulated). He could of easily shot someone else. It was luck that only he was hurt. Two years was the correct amount of jail time for the circumstances.

Of course, that does not change the fact that Stallworth got off way to easly and should of done more time that Burress. BUt that is a separate issue.
(I am undecided about Vick to be honest.)

Posted by: jim | Aug 21, 2009 8:19:57 AM

Why do you say that Plax had the gun for self defense?

At any rate, I agree that the sentence was too harsh. But, he deserves some punishment, at minimum, for endangering others. Don't forget, a club employee was nearly shot. Plax's handling of the gun was negligent to the point of criminal. This case tells us about the many benefits of holstering a gun.

Peter Carter, AFPD

Posted by: Peter Carter | Aug 21, 2009 10:04:33 AM

will Plax have to pay the costs of his incarceration?

I agree that this is a overly harsh sentence.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 21, 2009 10:19:01 AM

Doug & Other Readers: No doubt Plaxico has been made an example because of his (formerly) "high profile" status. This isn't right, but none of us can change it. I thought you all might find it interesting, in light of Heller, to review the 11th Circuit's recent decision in U.S. v. Canty, 570 F.3d 1251 (2009). In that opinion, the Court held that "possession of a concealed weapon" is not a "violent crime", such that it can be counted as a "strike" under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S. Code section 924(c). This rsult is somewhat surprising, since being a felon in possession of a firearm is a predicate "strike" under the ACCA. Thoughts anyone?

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Aug 21, 2009 10:33:57 AM


Much as I dislike it, registration schemes are going to be ruled constitutional. Given how little has been gained so far I would much prefer advocates choose battles that can be won rather than stack up a pile of bad precedent that judges then feel free to choose from. Has any constitutional argument ever succeeded by starting with something from the extreme?

The Getsy example of one defendant getting unwarranted leniency applies here as well. Just because Stallworth got a sweet deal does not entitle Burress to a break. He deserved prison for his actions, the only quibble would be how much. As an apparent fan of sentencing discretion at the federal level, I would have thought you would be willing to accept the fact of possibly harder than necessary sentences along with merciful ones.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 21, 2009 10:36:09 AM

Burress is actually being treated in line with other first-time handgun possessors in New York. He tried testifying before the grand jury in an effort to persuade them to vote a no true bill (a little nullification, please) but to no avail.

Stallworth, I don't get.

Posted by: Ed Unneland | Aug 21, 2009 3:42:45 PM

Remember, Stallworth got home detention (no picnic) and his sentence was agreed to with victim input.

As for Vick, his crime was intentional. Stallworth didn't mean to harm anyone. (Not denigrating the seriousness of Stallworth's crime.)

Posted by: federalist | Aug 21, 2009 4:34:35 PM

Idiot is all I can really say. I think Goodell has done a terrific job suspending players. Burress wont have another opportunity in the NFL so i imagine he was just trying to keep from giving all his money to lawyers in pleading guilty.

Posted by: New York Giants Picks | Aug 21, 2009 4:40:14 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB