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March 30, 2009

Talk of a plea deal to resolve gun charges against Plaxico Burress

Though press accounts are varied, this New York Times piece is reporting on a possible plea deal for football star Plaxico Burress to resolve his pending gun charges.  Here are the particulars of the report:

A plea deal is being seriously considered in the gun possession case against Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants’ wide receiver, and it appears likely that any agreement would require him to serve at least some time behind bars, a law enforcement official said on Sunday.

The details had not been finalized. Mr. Burress had been scheduled to appear at a hearing Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court, but his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Monday that no plea agreement would be announced Tuesday and that the hearing would be postponed to another day.

Mr. Burress, 31, who caught the winning touchdown in the Giants’ Super Bowl victory in February 2008, turned himself in to the police on Dec. 1, nearly three days after he accidentally shot himself in the leg with an unlicensed handgun at a nightclub in Manhattan.  Mr. Burress was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 3½ years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors commonly offer reduced charges in gun possession cases, taking into consideration things like a defendant’s criminal history, the reason for carrying the gun and the circumstances surrounding an arrest.  In Mr. Burress’s case, prosecutors may consider that he had been cooperative and that he did not appear to have a dubious motive in carrying the gun....

Last year, 986 cases in New York involving the same charges as Mr. Burress faces were resolved, and 90 percent of them resulted in convictions for less serious crimes, half of them misdemeanors or violations, said John M. Caher, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

The reduced charges in such cases include crimes like third-degree gun possession or attempted possession. Convictions on those charges allow for sentences of two years or less.

Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case. Mr. Brafman would not discuss details of the negotiations, and the Giants and the N.F.L. also declined to comment.

Though I do not find a plea deal at all surprising, the academic in me was hoping that we might get a sentencing and Second Amendment showdown in this high-profile case.  Regular readers might recall that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg had called for Burress to be "prosecute[d] to the fullest extent of the law" and suggested he should serve the mandatory minimum sentence of 3½ years in prison for his crimes.  And, on the other side, at least one prominent Second Amendment advocate called for Burress to challenge his prosecution as unconstitutional in the wake of Heller.

Related posts on the Plaxico Burress case:

UPDATEThis Newsday commentary, headlined "Plaxico doesn't deserve pass: If Burress gets off easily, it will be celebrity justice," makes the case for throwing the book at Burress:

In this one, the evidence is so clear-cut it is laughable.  Everybody agrees that Burress had the gun in his possession. Everybody agrees that it was unlicensed.  Everybody agrees that it was loaded, because a round wound up passing through Burress' thigh.

Mayor Bloomberg has publicly called for Burress' head, and Morgenthau seeks and obtains more convictions and jail terms than any other borough for offenders in gun cases.

Hopefully, that will be enough to offset the strongest thing Burress and his lawyer have on their side — that he is rich and famous and has thousands of mindless idolaters out there who would like to see him walk under any circumstances.

March 30, 2009 at 09:02 PM | Permalink


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The only difference between the accidental discharge in this case and that of the case involving Cheney is that in the later the use of the weapon is sanctified because the shooter was pursuing innocent wild animals and in the former case the shooter was armed to defend himself from not so innocent ones. Plaxico should have confined his activity to a civilized place like Texas.

Posted by: mpb | Mar 31, 2009 9:00:30 AM

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