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June 17, 2009

Lawyer for Plaxico Burress making much of sweet plea deal given to other NFL receiver

As detailed in this New York Daily News article, the lawyer for Plaxico Burress has wasted no time highlighting that his client ought to be able to get a plea deal with sentencing terms that are as sweet as the terms in Donte Stallworth's plea deal (background here):

Donte Stallworth got 30 days in jail for killing someone driving drunk, while Plaxico Burress is facing 3-1/2 to 15 years in prison for shooting himself in the leg. And Burress' attorney, Benjamin Brafman, doesn't think that's fair.

In an interview Tuesday night on Sirius NFL Radio's Late Hits, Brafman made sure to point out the "real disparity" in those two cases involving NFL wide receivers - a disparity that's now part of his argument for leniency in Burress' victimless crime.

"Donte' Stallworth, who is I think a fundamentally decent man, took a plea in a DWI case in which someone was killed and the jail sentence there was 30 days," Brafman said. "There are other components to the sentence - there'll be probation and community service and house arrest - but they gave him 30 days and someone ended up dying. "In our case there is no victim. So I think I have a powerful argument as to why there should be a lenient sentence here. I just haven't gotten the district attorney to agree with me yet."

Burress, 31, is charged with criminal possession of a loaded and unlicensed weapon in Manhattan - a crime which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 3-1/2 years. The case was adjourned for the second time on Monday and will resume on Sept. 23. Brafman said that if a grand jury decided to indict Burress and if a plea bargain isn't reached, a trial likely won't begin any earlier than 2010.

Stallworth, a receiver with the Cleveland Browns, was also facing a possible 15 years when he was arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter after he killed Mario Reyes while driving drunk in Florida on March 14.  But yesterday, Stallworth reached an agreement to plead guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, two years of house arrest (during which he can continue to play football), and eight years of probation.  He also reportedly reached a financial settlement with the victim's family.

"To suggest that in Plaxico's case he should get a two-year sentence, when in a case where someone ends up dead they OK a 30-day sentence, there just seems to be a real disparity there," Brafman said.

I am intrigued to see Brafman going on the offensive here, though I think it is a wise effort to use a potent and prominent story of (undue?) leniency from a plea deal in an effort to force NY state prosecutors to be willing to consider a good deal for his client.  More generally, because I think the Burress case can and should become a great Second Amendment test case, I am also pleased that Burress and Brafman are prepared to go to trial if they cannot get a favorable plea deal in this case.  It will be interesting to see if the Stallworth outcome now makes it easier for Brafman to get Burress a better plea deal.

Some related posts on the Stallworth and Burress cases:

June 17, 2009 at 01:18 PM | Permalink


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Perhaps if Plaxico Burress the victim is allowed to speak and make clear to the Court that he's forgiven Plaxico Burress the shooter, does not want Plaxico Burress the shooter to serve any prison time, and wants most of all for the ordeal of court proceedings to end so that he move on with his life...

Posted by: anonymous | Jun 17, 2009 1:26:03 PM

Aside from self-aggrandizement of the defense attorney, what is really the point here? If I'm the DA for Manhattan my public position on this disparate sentencing issue is a resounding "So What?" This (NY) is my jurisdiction, the legislature has clearly spoken regarding minimum punishment for gun offenses, and it's irrelevant the way a Florida court dealt with a completely unrelated incident and unrelated offense. Or, are pro football players some sort of "discernible national class" that somehow have a right to "similar" sentencing?

Posted by: anon | Jun 18, 2009 12:03:15 PM

I believe that comparison between the Burress case and the Donte Stallworth case is appropriate if only to point out that our society "still doesn't get it" in regard to drunk driving. Donte took a life. A three and a half year sentence for accidently shooting yourself vs 30 days for killing a person makes no sense. It is not what a "resonable man" would find appropriate in either case.

Posted by: jrm -concerned citizen | Aug 7, 2009 7:41:43 AM

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