Friday, March 27, 2009

Giants: Burress case

Please see this article in about the lawyer for Burress, Ben Brafman, trying to get Burress off with a lesser charge. This is the only way it can work for Plaxico to avoid jail time - if the charges are changed to a 3rd degree gun possession charge before Burress enters his plea next Tuesday. Once the plea is entered, and it is locked in that the charge against him is 2nd degree felony gun possession, he's cooked. This is the charge that carries with it a minimum mandatory sentence of 3 1/2 years. But if the charge is changed to 3rd degree possession, it is still a D-class felony, which means that it can not be plead down to a misdemeanor. But, some of those charged with 3rd degree possession actually avoid jail time and get only probation. It is not a majority of the cases, so even if it is reduced to 3rd degree, Burress is still not home free. There is a fourth degree gun possession charge in NYS that is a misdemeanor. About 25% of those charged with 3rd degree possession are given only probation, while others receive some jail time. NYS in the borough of Manhattan has a very high conviction rate on these gun possession charges, so if it goes to trial, he's in a load of trouble.
But even if the charge gets reduced to 2nd degree gun possession charges, AND he makes a deal where he is on probation for 18 or 24 months, he will surely get suspended by the NFL for violating the personal conduct policy. How long will the suspension be? I would suspect it would be a minimum of 4 games and could be as much as an entire season. If I were a betting man I would guess it would be 6-8 games. This is the best case for Burress and I think it is a low likelihood, even though he does have a very capable criminal lawyer defending him.

I saw some other writers pick up on the same thing that I said earlier - that Reese has said the Giants would welcome Burress back, but Coughlin has been somewhat less that open armed with his statements.


Faisal said...

I can't recall if you've commented on this before -- but taking everything into consideration, do you think the punishment fits the crime... even if it were dropped to 2nd degree felony gun possession with minimal jail time?

wolfman said...


Great question. I know this is a Giants blog, but I'll digress a bit and take a crack at commenting on social policy and gun laws.

The gun laws exist to get guns off the streets, out of the hands of criminals or out of the possession of people that are likely to put themselves in situations where crimes will be committed. I understand that. I also understand that kids, cops and ordinary innocent civilians are harmed, shot and killed by the availabity of guns in the public. So I am certainly sympathetic to the theory, the idea behind these strict gun possession laws.

The profile of a criminal, a hoodlum, someone who is likely to commit a crime because of the situations that he puts hmself in, simply does NOT match Plaxico Burress. He is not a criminal, was not carrying the weapon with the intent of shooting someone, robbing someone, threatening someone or using it to commit a violent crime. So if this gun possession crime results in him going to prison for an extended period and serving a suspension by the NFL on top of that, his professional career (and therefore his chance to have a decent life) are over. I understand that we are a country that must respect and obey the rule of law and it is a slippery slope to read too deeply into the motives of people committing a crime. The fact that they committed a crime should be all that matters. But for someone who really is not a serious threat to society, punishment such as this that in effect ruins his life, is probably too severe and does not fit the crime.


Yankel the Nachash said...

Going to have to disagree with you on that one. I happen to be very liberal minded, particularly when it comes to sentencing. I don't think people realize what it is to have their liberty taken away from them. Our country has the highest inmate/population ratio in the world, by far (here's a good article,
All that being said, I think one other element of gun laws is to also get the guns out of the hands of imbeciles who carry their gun in the waistband of their sweats, tote it in a club and accidentally fire it. If the bullet woulld have instead hit a waitress in the neck, I think we'd all want to see Plax do some time. So to me, throwing his ass in the can also helps prevent clueless imbeciles from accidentally firing their gun in a club, whether or not the imbecile is a hoodlum/criminal with intent to commit a crime...
Legalize marijuana!
Down with the Roc laws!
Just make sure your gun doesn't accidentally discharge in a club and your cool with me.

wolfman said...

You make some fair points and I am not objecting to whether he should be punished appropriately for his crime which will inlude jail time. I am in agreement with the gun laws and jail time for those guilty of them. What I tried to say in the last post is that the punsihment should fit the magnitude of the crime. He should get some jail time, but he should not be thrown into jail for an extended period of time, (5 years?) where his professional career and his life is completely ruined.

This is what I meant by the punishment fitting the crime.

The fact is that the bullet didn't hit someone else and cause any damage. And while this is simply a fortuitous outcome for Burress, he cannot be punished as if the bullet actually did hit someone. This is consistent with all other laws - someone caught DUI whose car fortuitously did not strike someone while he was driving wrecklessly is treated differently than someone caught DUI whose car struck and killed someone.

Even going back to biblical law - if someone is swinging an axe and the blade accidentally flies off and strikes someone killing him, he is treated as an accidental killer and punished. If the blade flew off and fell hamrlessly to the ground, he is not guilty. Kind of like the NBA - no harm, no foul.

Hope this is clearer.