August 23, 2009

The Sports Curmudgeon always balances my outlooks on current events. This time he said, “The law in NYC is that carrying an unregistered handgun – forget about discharging it, just carrying it will do – gets you a mandatory minimum of 42 months in jail upon conviction.  Read all the accounts of what happened last November and you will realize why Burress’ lawyer said the case was all but indefensible.  If convicted of carrying that gun on that night, he goes to the Crossbars Hilton for a minimum of 42 months.  Therefore, his plea bargain is a good deal for him.  Oh, do not ask about those reports that Burress was offered a plea deal back in the late Spring where he would have only served 6 months in jail but he turned the deal down.  If those reports are true, then his status as a certified meathead is assured for all time.




Ron Borges also lit a light in The Boston Herald, “Normally, NFL wide receivers have to be worried about being detached from their senses. Turns out, Plaxico Burress had to worry about being detached from reality.
Yesterday, the former Super Bowl hero of the New York Giants became a humble felon, copping a plea to one count of attempted possession of a weapon to reduce a potential 3-year prison sentence to two with a plea bargain. Like being blindsided by Rodney Harrison, “Plax” never saw it coming. His ego blocked his vision. Not even after his defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told him, as he finally told the world yesterday, “Unfortunately, there was no legal defense we could offer,” did Burress believe for a minute the law applied to him. Not even one as clearly written as the New York law that makes it a mandatory 3 years for carrying an unregistered gun. Forget about the concealed weapon part of it, or the fact the nitwit accidentally shot it off inside his sweatpants while trying to balance a wine glass as he sat down in a midtown Manhattan nightclub known as The Latin Quarter last November.
All along he thought he’d walk as Brafman delayed, stalled, argued and finally sent his man in front of a grand jury in the hope they’d remember those 11 catches in the NFC Championship Game and the winning one in Super Bowl XLII. They did, but the problem was they were also real people, not football people. They listened to his story, listened to the facts, thanked him for the pass receptions – and indicted him on three counts when he could have gotten away with only one had he just pled out.
That would have started his 20-month sentence sooner and had him back on the street in time for the 2010 season instead of ’11, which at his age is an eternity. But Burress is one of many guys playing sports for a living who think how they are treated in that world is somehow the way the real world works.Even Brafman fed into that when he said, “If Plaxico Burress were not a high-profile individual, there never would be a case. If he were just John Q. Public, he would have walked out of the club and he never would have been arrested.”                                                                                                                                   You fire a unregistered gun off in a public place in New York, shoot yourself and nearly hit a security guard, then you go to prison. There is no leeway in that law for John Q. or Plax B. – and Ben B. knows it.
But the larger issue Brafman missed is that if Plaxico Burress were John Q. Public, he would have been fired by the Giants long ago. He would not have gotten away with being fined more than 50 times in the last two seasons for being late, missing meetings and otherwise acting like he owned the place. So if you look at it that way, Brafman was right. He never would have been arrested because he wouldn’t have been in a nightclub – he’d have been at the unemployment office. “This was not an intentional criminal act,” Brafman insisted. “In my judgment, a two-year prison sentence is a very severe punishment.”
Good. It’s about time. Plaxico Burress has been a guy who didn’t get it for a long time and he’s not alone. Over here stands Michael Vick. Over there Donte’ Stallworth. In that corner of his cell, Rae Carruth. In this corner, Tank Johnson. Yet the message never seems to get through because colleges and pro teams keep giving the opposite message to these guys. They’re the victims, not their victims. They’re the poor souls living in fear that someone will prey upon them – the conniving women; the young men trying to get street cred at their expense; the wrong friends. Never them – always someone else.
As Burress’ former teammate Steve Smith, a Giants wide receiver, said, “I think they wanted to set an example, which (stinks). He did something to himself. He didn’t hurt anybody else. You never think somebody who was at that magnitude would get time like this. I heard the mayor, whatever he said.” What he said, Steve, was enforce the law. What he did, Steve, was discharge a loaded weapon in a nightclub that could have killed your brother or your sister or someone’s wife or mother. That it didn’t was pure luck.
As for Plaxico Burress’ “magnitude,” if he was talking about his ego he’s right. Otherwise, all he was a little man with a big gun who didn’t know how to be the former or use the latter.




Even Bob Molinaro weighed in on by saying, “Did Plaxico Burress receive the star treatment in reverse? That’s the compassionate view being shopped around in some places. Me? I wouldn’t try to sell it on craigslist.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the 32-year-old former Virginia Beach high school football star who accepted a plea deal Thursday that calls for two years in prison. Not by a long shot is Burress the worst person to emerge from Warden Goodell’s NFL. Still, I lost patience with his act a long time ago. Before he broke the law, the numerous episodes in which he disrespected his Giants teammates by showing up late for practice left an indelible impression of an athlete who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.
A bad guy? Maybe not. But he’s made too many bad decisions in his public life to be the kind of guy you root for. Was it bad luck for Burress to clumsily discharge a round into his own thigh in a city that actually takes its weapons laws seriously?
Was it kosher the way New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the district attorney made an example of him, ostensibly for political gain?
This is not how celebrity justice is supposed to work.
After all those second and third chances that he came to see as his birthright in the NFL, all those times he wriggled off the hook for unprofessional conduct, imagine Burress’ shock and chagrin when the D.A.’s office cut him no slack. Without question, the punishment is severe. But when the gun went off in the crowded night club, somebody could have been killed. It’s a small, though important, detail worth remembering. But because Burress is being incarcerated for an incident that continues to be portrayed as more an accident than a crime, some are treating him as a victim.
Race card anyone?
Would Giants quarterback Eli Manning have encountered the same sort of aggressive prosecution had the smoking gun fallen out of his waist band (or would Eli even have a gun)?
The hypothetical presumes that somebody immature and foolish enough to flash a gun in a public place would be allowed to run an NFL offense. But in the court of public opinion, the bigger problem in building a race-based case for Burress is the defendant’s own reputation for selfish, juvenile, sometimes ludicrous behavior.                                                                                                                The character issue is what makes Burress an unsympathetic figure.
With good behavior, Burress won’t serve two full years. Once he’s out – Roger Goodell has said he wouldn’t impose an additional suspension – at least one NFL team will be willing to sign a tall receiver who can make the tough catches in the red zone. While he’s behind bars, Burress might even improve his image by trading on the complaint that he is a star-crossed victim of prosecutorial zeal. But the real lesson to come out of Burress’ legal woes is that chronic stupidity comes at a price. So does arrogance.
The enablers who encountered Burress at each stage of his development, the fans, teammates and coaches who looked the other way because of his football skills, share some of the blame (that includes me).
But most of it falls on Burress. It would be difficult to deny that his current dilemma came about as a result of years of poor decision making.
When Burress pled guilty to weapons charges, he saved himself 1-1/2 years in prison – he could’ve gotten 3-1/2 years had a trial ended in conviction. A trial would only have illustrated the challenge facing even the best defense attorney.
Imagine Burress’ mouthpiece standing up in court and asking the jury to find his client not guilty on the grounds that he’s always been a big screw-up.


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