Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Maybe Plaxico Burress really thought he could beat the system and avoid jail time after shooting himself in the leg at a club in Manhattan last Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe Plaxico thought he could plead guilty to a lesser charge last December, January or February, do a little time and make it back for the 2009 NFL season.
Unfortunately for him, as readers of this column are aware (see Kallas Remarks, 11/30/08 and 12/11/08), the law pertaining to gun possession (no intent to do anything, just actual possession of a loaded firearm) in New York State changed back in 2006 to make sure that people in Plaxico’s position would actually do real time (a Class C Felony, three-and-a-half year minimum), even if they would plead to a lesser charge (like a Class D Felony, two-year minimum). Prior to the change in the law, someone like Plaxico could have (and often did) plead to a lesser charge and do minimal or no time and just get probation.
But that was then, this is now.
WHAT WAS PLAN A?
Well, Plan A was to beat the system or, at a minimum, get a top defense lawyer (Benjamin Brafman, of P Diddy acquittal (among others) fame) to keep the pain to a minimum. However, thanks to tougher new laws and (maybe) Mayor Bloomberg’s inappropriate comments (are you guilty until proven innocent now?), Plan A, while still a down-the-road potential minor miracle, seems to have been back-burnered by Burress and his lawyers.
WHAT IS PLAN B?
Well, with the recent nothing-happened court appearance and with no indictment immediately in sight (maybe September, by the next court appearance?), it seems that Plan B has become let’s-get-Plaxico-at-least-one-more-season.
Here’s how it works: the June court appearance, where nothing really happened, is followed by the September 23 court appearance. With maybe an indictment by then (remember the famous “a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich” quote), after motions are made by the defense, responded to by the prosecution and dealt with by a judge, it would be unlikely that a trial would take place before the end of the regular season or even the Super Bowl.
Thus Plan B is let’s get Plax one more season of real money (with multiple teams apparently interested (the Jets, Bears and Bucs, allegedly)). Plaxico Burress might be in for at least one more big (single season, it says here) payday.
HERE’S THE POTENTIAL MONKEY WRENCH
The problem with Plan B works at the Commissioner’s office. Why would Roger Goodell allow this to happen? He certainly has the power to suspend Plaxico. Presumably he would and it would be challenged by the players’ union and taken to an arbitrator. The facts of the case are pretty undisputed. Everybody knows that Burress had a loaded firearm. Everybody knows that it was not licensed to be carried in New York. Everybody knows he shot himself, albeit accidentally. Everybody understands the threat (the danger, the stupidity?) of having a loaded firearm in a public place. And everybody now knows that the law was changed in New York a few years ago to send people like this (that is, those who simply carry a loaded firearm in New York without a permit) to jail.
So it would seem that the Commissioner, rightly or wrongly, would view this as an attempt to circumvent the law and the NFL rules and/or policies to get a big payday for Plaxico.
It’s hard to believe that the Commissioner of the NFL would allow this to happen.
WHAT ABOUT DONTE STALLWORTH?
Fascinating timing, but probably irrelevant to the Burress legal case. Stallworth, who killed a pedestrian while he (Stallworth) was under the influence, was recently sentenced to 30 days in jail, maybe (or maybe not?) two years of house arrest and ten years of probation. Stallworth “settled” with the deceased person’s family, reportedly for low seven figures.
The Commissioner promptly suspended Stallworth “indefinitely.”
But Stallworth’s case didn’t happen in New York. It didn’t happen in a place where the laws were recently changed. It didn’t happen in a place where a powerful mayor is already on record as saying the perpetrator (Plaxico) should, essentially, do time.
And while virtually all of us would agree that, if Stallworth only gets 30 days (and virtually all of us think that’s a very short sentence), it wouldn’t make sense for Plaxico to do serious time (one year, two years, three-and-a-half years), the reality is that’s comparing apples and oranges.
In New York, the law is the law is the law.
WHAT’S LONG-TERM FOR PLAXICO?
Once indicted (and it seems he will be), you have to think it will be back to where we started with the Class C and Class D Felonies (see Kallas Remarks, 11/30/08 and 12/11/08). Even a miracle worker like Ben Brafman will have an incredibly difficult time getting Burress acquitted, at least of the possession charge. If he tries to get a plea post-indictment, the Manhattan DA’s policy has only been to allow a defendant to plead down a C to a D (two years). Anything less, a real longshot, would raise eyebrows in City Hall and across New York. It’s hard to believe there will be special treatment here.
If Burress goes the distance at trial and gets convicted of a Class C Felony, he will also do real time. Of course, if he goes to trial and Ben Brafman works his magic, he could walk out a free man. But it says here that’s an incredible longshot.
We’ll see what happens.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.