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Burress Pleads Guilty

UPDATED (4:16 p.m.)...

Former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty Thursday to a weapon charge, stemming from the incident last year in which he accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub, and agreed to a two-year prison sentence.

Burress pleaded guilty, according to reports, to one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon, a reduced charge. He agreed to a two-year prison sentence--of which he is likely to serve approximately 20 months, his attorney said--and two years of supervised release under a plea deal.

He is scheduled to be back in court Sept. 22 to be sentenced. Benjamin Brafman, Burress's attorney, said he expects Burress to begin serving his prison term immediately at that point.

"The decision to plead guilty has been an agonizing decision, quite frankly," Brafman said at a news conference. "It wasn't until just a couple of days ago that we had an understanding that we were going to come to a decision today.... We talked about this again and again and again, and came to realize that now that he's been indicted, there is just no way out and getting this behind him sooner is the best thing for everyone."

The NFL announced later in the day that Burress had been suspended but will be reinstated upon the completion of his jail term.

Burress appeared in court Thursday for what was to be his arraignment.

Brafman previously had been unable to agree to a plea deal with prosecutors. According to reports, Burress previously had been unwilling to agree to more than one year in prison under the terms of a plea agreement while prosecutors had been adamant about seeking two years.

A Manhattan grand jury had indicted Burress on two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment in the second degree. He faced 3-1/2 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the weapon possession charges, and up to one year in jail if convicted of the reckless endangerment charge, according to prosecutors.

"This is a sad day because I think a very good man who is a brilliant athlete is going to unfortunately spend 20 months in prison when he had no intent to violate the law," Brafman said. "I give Plaxico a great deal of credit for accepting responsibility, recognizing that he had to accept responsibility. It was a hard decision in a case like this because as all of you know, the facts in this case have never been in dispute from day one. This is a perfect example in many ways of bad judgment sometimes has very terrible consequences, consequences far more severe than may be justified, in my view.

"... We tried for eight months to get a plea to less than two years, without success. If he went to trial and were convicted, he would face a significantly greater prison sentence.... After an agonizing period of discussion, Plaxico decided that he wanted to do this, put this behind him as quickly as possible in the hope that when he is released, he will be able to resume his stellar professional football career."

Burress is a free agent after being released in the offseason by the Giants.

The NFL issued a written statement Thursday that said: "Plaxico Burress is not under contract to an NFL team. In light of his plea today, Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended Burress and informed him that he is ineligible to sign with any team until he completes his jail term. Commissioner Goodell said Burress will be reinstated and eligible to sign with an NFL team upon the completion of his sentence."

According to the NFL's written statement, Goodell and other league officials conducted a hearing last week in New York with Burress and his representatives. Burress was notified in June, according to the league's statement, that Goodell had initiated a review of the matter under the NFL's personal conduct and weapons policies.

Brafman had expressed the hope earlier in the day that any suspension by the NFL would run concurrent with Burress's prison term. The attorney said he was hopeful that Burress could resume his NFL career after being released from jail.

"He is 32," Brafman said. "He will be done with his prison sentence by the time he is 34. And if he stays healthy and in shape, we think he still has years ahead of him as a professional athlete."

Brafman said both in and outside court there was no defense he could have provided against the charges if the case had gone to trial.

"We tried our best to negotiate a better plea," Brafman said during his news conference. "We tried our best to convince the grand jury to have compassion. There were not facts that we could argue in this case. The gun was recovered. It was his gun. It was registered in his name. It was turned over by him to the police. The Giants were alerted within minutes after the incident happened that Plaxico shot himself. This was never a who-done-it. There were never disputed facts. This was a question of trying to find a way out of this horrible legal predicament with the least amount of punishment possible, and this is unfortunately where it ended."

Brafman said of the mandatory minimum 3-1/2-year jail term that Burress was facing if convicted of the original weapons charges: "Taking away discretion from the courts, sometimes this statute creates a far more serious sentence than the circumstances of the particular case really call for."

Of Burress, Brafman said: "He is sad. He is disappointed in himself, unhappy because he is a good man facing prison. But to his credit, he has understood that he did something wrong. He violated the law and unfortunately in this case, it comes with a very, very steep price."

Burress testified before the grand jury in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid being indicted. The grand jury voted not to indict Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who accompanied Burress to the nightclub on the night of the incident last November and allegedly was in possession of the gun after the shooting.

When Burress was indicted, the Manhattan district attorney's office issued a written statement that said in part: "At the time the defendant shot himself, he was not licensed to carry or possess that pistol in either New York or New Jersey, where he had a home. His license to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Florida had expired in May of 2008. Even if that license had not expired, the states of New York and New Jersey do not recognize out-of-state concealed weapon carry licenses."

Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, previously had said publicly that prosecutors believed Burress should spend time in jail, whether through a conviction or plea deal.

When Burress was indicted, Morgenthau said in a written statement released by his office: "In this case, we conducted a thorough investigation and then presented the evidence to the grand jury, which evaluated the facts under the applicable law. The case required a more protracted investigation than does a typical weapons possession case, given the number of witnesses and the need to investigate events both before and after the shooting. The case was treated like any similar case against any other defendant. Ultimately, the grand jury did what it thought was fair."

Burress has 505 catches for 7,845 yards and 55 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons, five for the Pittsburgh Steelers and four for the Giants. He had the game-winning touchdown catch in the Giants' upset of the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2007 season.

Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon wrote on Twitter that he'd spoken to co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, General Manager Jerry Reese and Coach Tom Coughlin "and to a person, they had the same reaction, that this has been a tragic, sad, disappointing situation from the beginning. Our concern has always been for Plax's welfare, and that continues to be our overriding feeling."

Giants quarterback Eli Manning told reporters, according to a transcript provided by the team: "It's just sad. You know, I'm disappointed and just feel bad for how this worked out, and the circumstances that he has been put through, and his family. So, no one wanted this to happen and it's just a shame that it did.... I would hope that, you know, he would want to come back [to the NFL after his prison term] and someone would give him a shot. I guess this is all going to depend on the circumstances and how it works out, but I hope that he does get a shot."

By Mark Maske  |  August 20, 2009; 10:26 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , League Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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wesmontgomery: Surely you're joking. Although, since you said that some places have laws against carrying while drunk, makes me wonder whether you are. No, it is not legal to carry a gun into a bar in many, many states. In all of the states I have ever been in a bar in, which is about half of them.

"Of course it's legal to carry weapons in bars/clubs, EVERYWHERE." No, it ain't. I hope you're trying to be ironic (and failing).

Posted by: dwalker3 | August 24, 2009 10:21 AM

What will this idiot do for an encore rob his own house. In the words of the late Redd Foxx "YOU BIG DUMMY" Don't bend for the soap Plex..

Posted by: tsamm | August 21, 2009 1:26 PM

glad to see most folks think the sentence is extreme. makes you wonder how much time Pierce would have gotten just for being there and holding the gun after the fact. 2-years for shooting yourself? Can you appeal the sentence after an appeal? It's almost like he should have gone to trial and take his chances. He has been robbed before. he did have licenses in florida, though not NY or NJ. but 2-years for shooting yourslef when it was an obvious accident and not in the intent to commit a crime or harm any other is tough.

Posted by: simplewords999 | August 21, 2009 11:46 AM

The Plaxico sentence does seem harsh but if you want to blame anything or anyone for his sentence first and foremost start with Plaxico. He put himself in the situation. Secondly blame the get tough politicians in New York. NY has some of the most strict gun laws in the entire country that calls for a mandatory MINIMUM of 3 years for bringing and a gun not registered in New York into the state. These laws were created well before Plaxico ever even thought about bringing a gun to NY so I don't see how others are crying how Plaxico's sentence was race based. The facts in this case were indisputable. The law in this case is pretty clear. Plaxico's lawyer in the case is one of the better defense attorney so we can't say he didn't have competant representation. What probably needs to change are the draconian NY gun laws. Like all mandatory sentence laws they take away the judge's ability to review a case and hand down a just sentence based on the circumstances of that case. Mandatory sentence laws gives too much of an upper hand to the prosecution. Technically the two year sentence the prosecutor gave to Plax was a great deal based on the mandatory 3.5 year minimum he was facing.

Oh and to switch gears I ussually try to not respond to posters who are mentally unstable because really what is the point but Vickie803 seems to think NFL players commit an outrageous number of crimes when statistically speaking NFL players commit fewer crimes than the general population. Anyone can see from her posts that she hates NFL players and it burns her up even more that they make millions. I say to that 'BRAVO!' and "Let it burn".

Posted by: 6thsense79 | August 21, 2009 9:22 AM

I always said nothing good come from that state. He would have not served a day if he were a New York Cop.

Posted by: shamken | August 21, 2009 7:42 AM

I think 20-24 months is a bit much for this. I know what he did was stupid, but there was no malicious intent on his part. He made a poor choice and I know that it could have been far worse and some innocent person could have been hurt/killed, but that did not happen. So Plax pulls a Barney Fife and shoots himself on accident and gets almost 2 years in jail!

Posted by: BeltwayBoy | August 20, 2009 11:29 PM

far too long the criminal justice system has catered to atheletes/entertainers by turning their heads or giving minimal sentences reduce to a fine of a few hundred/thousand dollars which amounted to a drop in the bucket for these highly paid persons. it's good to see that they are losing these high priced contracts and are doing prison if the criminal justice system would step up and prosecute these wall street thiefs/swindlers who on top of stealing are given millions of dollars in performnce bonuses.

Posted by: ronaldtennillegeorgia1 | August 20, 2009 4:55 PM

2 years for that?!?!?! Boy, NY sure knows about to treat the man who caught the Super Bowl-winning touchdown.

Posted by: scottgower1 | August 20, 2009 4:42 PM

This is all goes back to tougher gun laws enacted after the Sean Puffy Combs/J. Lo shooting incident in a NYC nightclub in 1999 where 3 people were injured. Gun was brought into a club concealed in a waistband, exact same as Plax's.

But still seems harsh for Plax.

Posted by: crabbypatty1 | August 20, 2009 3:04 PM

I just don't see what two years imprisonment is supposed to accomplish in this case. If ever there was a case for probation and community service this is it. BTW, he should have remained with the Steelers :-)

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | August 20, 2009 3:01 PM

Donte Stallworth kills man with car - 3 months locked up.

Plax shoots himself accidently - 2 years locked up.

REALLY? Whats up with that?

Posted by: crabbypatty1 | August 20, 2009 2:53 PM

Unbelievable!!! You shoot yourself and get two years in prison PULLEEEZZZ!!!! Yeah,yeah,yeah it was a concealed weapon but does the defendant have a track record for these type of offenses NO!! but he's a wealthy "black" athelete AND BY GOD "BOY" WE'RE GOING TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE OUT OF YOU!! YOU AND THUGS LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO LEARN A LESSON!! JUSTICE? OR JUST US.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 20, 2009 2:34 PM

At least the dumbass shot himself instead of somebody else. Just another criminal getting off easy because he will call it racial profiling and discrimination because he's black if he's given what he deserves. Seems like if you're a black athlete you can get away with murder, kill someone while driving drunk & pay off the family & the system, kill innocent animals & still make the big bucks playing sports. Pete Rose lost his career from placing a bet & he didn't get a second chance. He should file discrimination charges. ...oops he's white.

Posted by: Lockemup | August 20, 2009 1:26 PM

DWALKER... I guess you haven't passed the bar... or taken 30 seconds to search gun laws on google. Of course it's legal to carry weapons in bars/clubs, EVERYWHERE. A few states have laws against carrying while drunk. More have laws against concealed carry while in a bar or drunk. What country do you think you're in, anyway?

To all the people that are shocked he got 2 years... don't be. I'm surprised it wasn't more like 4 or 5 plus probation considering how strict NY state/NYC handgun laws are. If he was any other black male he would have been completely railroaded. If Plaxico does one useful thing in his life after he does his time(and no, as a fan myself, football isn't a useful contribution) he should campaign to get these BS laws changed or sentencing guidelines reduced. If he bought the gun legally in Florida, he should be able to carry it (not concealed tho) anywhere in the US... it's not out of the question to get the laws overturned.

my god.... what an idiot. safety button folks!! he's lucky he didn't die.

Posted by: wesmontgomery | August 20, 2009 1:14 PM

My prayers are with you Burress.
2 years in prison for a concealed weapon...
Another example of justice in America.

Posted by: saveoursouls | August 20, 2009 12:59 PM

He had "no intent to violate the law"??? What? He carried a gun into a nightclub! Did he not know that he had a gun tucked into his waistband?

I thought there was no place in the US where you could legally carry a gun into a place that serves alcohol. Unless this nightclub doesn't serve alcohol, or unless I am mistaken about state alcoholic beverage laws, he should have KNOWN he was breaking the law. Sheesh.

Posted by: dwalker3 | August 20, 2009 12:54 PM

He'll get his base contract and be sitting pretty. Naturally the bonuses for exceptional stats will not payoff but all in all he's done a credible job representing himself, the NFL and gun totters everywhere. When I read Manhattan DA Morgenthau was going after Burress I doubted his resolve. No mas.

Posted by: KraftPaper | August 20, 2009 12:39 PM

Nothing like getting 2 years in prison for shooting yourself....I guess he should be glad he didn't get charged with attempted murder. I hope they let this guy go...I think he's been through enough humiliation.

Posted by: LongTimeSkinsFan | August 20, 2009 12:37 PM

Somehow I see vigilantes and gangstas as one in the same; just packaged differently.

Posted by: saveoursouls | August 20, 2009 12:37 PM

There were plenty of people who broke the law in this incident, the folks at the hospital, the bouncers, etc... Only one person that was charged, Plaxico, BINGO!

So spare me the crime and punishment bit!

Posted by: geber22 | August 20, 2009 12:36 PM

I'm a liberal who enjoys gun ownership. I think this guy was yet one more gangsta' wannabe in the NFL. Good talent, but questionable attitude.

What he did was pretty stupid for several reasons. One being he shot himself which never looks real impressive to other gun owners.

But to have him spend 2 years in prison is absurd. Maybe 3 to 6 months, maybe work in the community for punishment. Waste of taxpayers money. Is he going to make license plates? Better to teach him how to mentor to kids rather than make him a martyr to future gangsta's.

We all lose on this deal.

Posted by: patrick10 | August 20, 2009 12:34 PM

To keng52:
I am well aware of the law in Arizona, and pretty much why the law there is what it is. I have spent a lot of time in Arizona, and have walked where Doc Holiday and the Ok Coral boys walked.
My question is why does an obvious vigilante have the right to carry a weapon to a demonstration, against the president that he hates, no matter what the law?
Another question is do you feel 2 years of federal imprisonment fits the crime of carrying a concealed weapon where it is not the law?

Posted by: saveoursouls | August 20, 2009 12:28 PM

The NRA is for being responsible gun owners. Burress had no permit. He wasn't legaly using a gun,IE hunting,gun range etc. He was just being a dumba$$ , disobeying the laws.The man in Arizona, who I think he was open carrying a AR 15 was doing everything legal. Open carry is legal in Arizona Burress could have done the same thing and nothing would happen but if you carry one concelled like Burress did then even in AZ you would go to jail. It wasn't because he was a white man he didn't get arrested. When these thugs realize that they are laws that have to obeyed and when you do so you don't get locked up. .Just because he is a Black Football player doesn't mean he doesn't have to obey the laws. Thats not racism that just the law. The rules are if you wan't to carry a gun, don't have a criminal record,don't carry one untill you get a permit,If you do get one check the laws of every state you visit,and last but not least. Don't grab a gun, that is loaded as it is sliding down your leg.

Posted by: keng52 | August 20, 2009 12:21 PM

To wparmer:
First of all, why did he take the gun to the demonstration in the first place?
Second of all, there was not only 1 incident of this gun-toting frenzy. There were others, and perhaps the one I saw was different from the one you speak of. Perhaps it was you carrying it. My question is whether one would be more effective than the other in carrying out a crime against the president, and yes against humanity?

Posted by: saveoursouls | August 20, 2009 12:03 PM

This is neither about race nor social status. Burress broke the law and will now have to the consequences of his actions. I love football and will continue to watch faithfully on sundays. However, I am glad to see that our justice system is beginning to hold celebrities to the same standards as John Q. Public

Posted by: daboarddawg | August 20, 2009 12:00 PM

Low profile white guys still don't bear the furor of those in power, who all too ften administer justice based on race.
It is a terrible fallacy of the human heart. We are basically concerned with "our own." You and I both know that it is true. Do you really think you would get 2 years for bearing a concealed weapon, as a low profile white guy?
I don't think so.

Posted by: saveoursouls | August 20, 2009 11:59 AM

Hey SaveourSouls,

It wasn't neither a "submachine" gun or an "oozie" (Uzie, by the way), that the citizen in Arizona was legally carrying. It was a civilianized version of an M-4 Carbine. A perfectly legal rifle to own and openly carry in that state. That man broke no laws and was treated with respect and caution by the Secret Service. While I don't agree that his actions were necessarily a good idea, I do support his right to do so.

Burress, on the other hand, broke the law by taking an unregistered, concealed handgun into a night club. You could argue intent between the two cases, but I don't believe a conclusion could be achieved. The bottom line is what the law permits.

Inform yourself before you make comments about things you don't understand.

Posted by: wparmer | August 20, 2009 11:57 AM

I am a low profile white guy, but I am pretty sure that I might go to jail for a while if I walked into a bar with a concealed handgun and managed to somehow shoot myself or someone else. It does not bother me that a high dollar black professional athlete would be treated just like me.

Posted by: aplefeuvre | August 20, 2009 11:52 AM

Where are the gun rights people now, to aid in his defense.
I saw a man toting a submachine gun in Arizona, demonstrating against the healthcare initiative outside of the building the President was speaking in; with an oozie over his shoulder.
He had it in broad daylight, and there was hardly an issue made about it. Where are the gun rights people now? A young man takes a pistol to a night club. Who in the NRA will stand up and say he has a right to bear arms, even though he accidently shot himself? Many children of gun rights people have accidently shot themselves or others; yet they still demand the right to bear firearms.

Posted by: saveoursouls | August 20, 2009 11:48 AM

Hey GEBER22:

Do you also comment when another black man is made a celebrity and has millions of dollars thrown at him because he can play with a ball?

Posted by: Vickie803 | August 20, 2009 11:37 AM

Congratulations to Robert M. Morgenthau and Mayor Bloomberg, you have put another high profile black man behind bars, this will surely be a boom for your political careers.
Posted by: geber22 | August 20, 2009 11:25 AM
And the racial whiners begin...

Posted by: Vickie803 | August 20, 2009 11:35 AM

Well, I put a lot of effort in a post about NFL scum and hit the enter button more than once when it didn't appear to respond. It told me it wouldn't post any... Forget it. The NFL are criminal scum.

Posted by: Vickie803 | August 20, 2009 11:34 AM

The National Felons League needs to quit bothering people. Just run the thing through prisons, put cage wire around the field, and let the criminals have at it. Is it Manning who is supposed to be so upright that got a B.J. under a table in a restaurant? When millions of dollars are thrown at the NFL scum because they can get a da%*ed ball over a line, something is really, really wrong with someone's mind (quiet a few someones). Women, if your man can't get out from in front of a televised foobaw game, you've got a loser.

Posted by: Vickie803 | August 20, 2009 11:32 AM

Congratulations to Robert M. Morgenthau and Mayor Bloomberg, you have put another high profile black man behind bars, this will surely be a boom for your political careers.

Posted by: geber22 | August 20, 2009 11:25 AM

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