Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Whether it was last year, right after Plaxico Burress shot himself with his own unlicensed gun in a New York City nightclub (Kallas Remarks, 11/30/08), or two weeks ago, when Burress was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury (Kallas Remarks, 8/3/09), it always seemed like Plaxico was going to do jail time and, probably, two years.
Well, that came true today when Burress pleaded guilty to the Class D felony of attempted criminal possession of a weapon. That crime carries with it a mandatory minimum of two years in prison (as opposed to the three-and-a-half year mandatory minimum he would have faced if convicted at trial on the Class C felony that he was charged with). His sentencing day is September 22.
HOW DID PLAXICO GET HERE?
There’s been much talk about how this has happened because Plaxico is a celebrity. For example, Burress’ attorney, Benjamin Brafman, stated that if Plaxico wasn’t a celebrity, he would never have been arrested because nobody would have found out about it.
But that begs the question: A crime was still committed, so who really knows what would have happened? Burress’ celebrity really hurt him because he [Burress] was able to talk his way into the club with his gun even though the security guards knew he had a gun. If that were you or me, we’d have had no chance to get into the club with a gun and, thus, no chance to shoot ourselves in the thigh (stupidity aside) while trying to balance a drink in the other hand.
People seem to forget that the crime was committed when Burress was simply in New York City with an unlicensed firearm (no intent to harm anyone necessary). If he hadn’t shot himself (DA Morgenthau said the bullet almost hit a security guard after passing through Burress’ thigh), it would probably not have been discovered. But he did shoot himself and, attempted cover-ups aside, it was pretty clear that even Joe Blow would have been arrested and prosecuted on this fact pattern.
HOW MUCH TIME WILL PLAXICO REALLY DO?
Generally speaking, a criminal defendant in the New York State system will serve 6/7 of his time (assuming he behaves in prison). Even though there has been some discussion that Plaxico could get out earlier under the difficult Shock Incarceration program, the reality is that, according to his lawyer, Plaxico will go in on September 22nd and do his “20 months” in prison.
Thus he’s looking at missing two full NFL seasons.
HAS PLAXICO BURRESS BEEN TREATED DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE HE’S A CELEBRITY?
According to former Bronx Assistant District Attorney and current New York defense lawyer Joe Heinzmann, Burress has been treated like everyone else:
“This was a routine disposition of a gun possession case. People in Plaxico Burress’ situation are routinely allowed to plead to the lesser Class D felony and go to prison for two years [rather than the Class C three-and-a-half]. There was neither a celebrity advantage nor a celebrity disadvantage.”
Despite beliefs on either side of this argument, according to sources, this is how the Manhattan DA’s office is handling these gun possession cases. That is, you can plead to the lesser Class D felony and get two years in prison. Or you can go the distance, but, if you are convicted on the Class C charge, you will do at least three-and-a-half years in prison.
Essentially out of options, Plaxico chose the two years, which at least gives him a chance to get back in the league at age 34.
Even Ben Brafman seemed to acknowledge this when, wh ile answering a question posed to him that at least intimated that Plaxico was getting a good deal (two years) BECAUSE he is a celebrity, he stated: “HE [Burress] GOT THE SAME PLEA IN THIS CASE THAT THE DA OFFERS EVERY DAY TO EVERYONE ELSE who is arrested for a weapon, who has no criminal record and [who] did not use the weapon in the commission of a crime.” (emphasis supplied).
WHERE’S THE NFL IN ALL OF THIS AND WHAT WILL THE COMMISSIONER DO?
Interesting question. Plaxico’s lawyer has already made a public plea to Roger Goodell to announce any suspension now and have it run now or at least concurrently with the two-year term.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, unless the Commissioner thinks these are two totally different cases. If the Michael Vick and Donte’ Stallworth cases are at all helpful (in terms of how the NFL will act), you’ll probably here the “Plaxico’s not in the league now so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.” Remember, Stallworth wasn’t suspended for the season until after he reached his plea deal and did his time. Michael Vick, with the help of Tony Dungy (don’t you think that Dungy will be part of Plaxico’s life in the next two years?), is back in the league but apparently will not be allowed to play for the first six weeks this year (although that could change).
In the Burress case, one would think that Goodell will take “everything” into consideration, but that he won’t enter a suspension now. Rather, like with Vick, he will see where he is when his prison sentence is almost over and then make a determination as to what suspension, if any, will be imposed upon Burress.
It says here that it will be similar to the Vick situation where Tony Dungy will be involved and the conditional reinstatement/suspension, if any, will be like that of Michael Vick – a number of weeks that can be shortened for, in essence, good behavior.
We’ll see what happens in the future.
© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.