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Plaxico Burress faces jail time

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NEW YORK -- Former New York Giants star Plaxico Burress was indicted by a grand jury on weapons charges for shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub and faces a minimum prison sentence of 3½ years if convicted, prosecutors announced Monday.

The indictment charged the 31-year-old Burress with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

"The grand jury applied the law to the facts of this case," Morgenthau said. He said the accidental shooting at the Latin Quarter nightclub on Nov. 29 was treated "like any similar case against any other defendant."

Burress' lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the indictment, which came after Burress testified before the grand jury and expressed remorse.

"When you have the mayor and the district attorney both publicly demanding a maximum prison sentence, it was perhaps too much to hope for the grand jury to conduct a sympathetic review of the unique facts of this sad case," Brafman said in a statement.

Burress' former teammate Antonio Pierce, who was with Burress in the club and drove him to the hospital, was not indicted. Immediately after the decision was announced, the NFL said Pierce would not face a league suspension.

The panel also did not indict the nightclub security guard who carried the gun to Pierce's car or the hospital staff members who failed to notify police that Burress had been shot.

Morgenthau said hospital personnel were guilty of "a screw-up rather than a cover-up" and the security guard exhibited "bad judgment in the first degree" but did not commit a crime.

Pierce, who also testified before the grand jury last week, was practicing with the Giants in Albany when he learned of the panel's decision. He was not going to speak with the media on Monday, team officials said.

Giants president John Mara said the team was pleased that the linebacker was not indicted.

"We said last week we felt strongly that Antonio's actions did not warrant criminal charges, and obviously the grand jury, having heard all of the testimony, felt the same way," he said.

Pierce's lawyer, Michael Bachner, said, "By appearing before the grand jury for almost three hours and answering the grand jury's very direct and very considered questions, it was clear to us that they understood that Mr. Pierce acted as any citizen under extraordinary circumstances would have acted."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was glad the matter was now behind the team.

"As I said yesterday, we are anxious to start the new season, nobody more than Antonio," Coughlin said. "Today's decision allows him and this team to move forward and focus on our preparation for the season."

Having Pierce on the field is important to the Giants. He calls the defensive plays.

"Antonio is a leader on this team, but he is still human, and this has been an emotionally draining experience for him," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We know he was happy to get to training camp [Sunday], and with this behind him, he can focus all his energy and efforts on football. He took this matter very seriously."

Burress was inside the club when a gun tucked into his waistband slipped down his leg and fired, shooting him in the right thigh.

Prosecutors said Monday that after taking Burress to the hospital, Pierce drove the gun to his own home in New Jersey -- not to Burress' home, as was originally reported. They said he later arranged for it to be taken to Burress' home.

Assistant District Attorney John Wolfstaetter said the bullet that hit Burress narrowly missed a nightclub security guard who was standing inches away.

The bullet lodged in the floor and was recovered by a bartender, Morgenthau said.

"He wanted it as a souvenir but we told him he had to turn it over," he said.

The gun was not licensed in New York or in New Jersey, where Burress lived, prosecutors said. Burress' license to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Florida had expired in May 2008.

The charges Burress was indicted on carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 3½ years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to weapons charges earlier this year and is free on $100,000 bail.

The grand jury indictment comes after plea bargain negotiations broke down, apparently because Morgenthau was insisting that Burress serve at least two years in prison under any plea agreement.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Dwyer said it is standard policy to request a two-year sentence as part of a plea bargain on such serious charges.

Burress, who caught the winning touchdown for the Giants over the New England Patriotsin the final minute of the 2008 Super Bowl, also could face disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell's office announced in June that the league already had started its examination of the shooting, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday's indictment "will be considered as part of that review."

The Giants released Burress in April and he has yet to sign with another team.

 Athletes in trouble with the law,  funny take on it

In the latest chapter of When Bad Things Happen to Good Athletes, Indiana Pacers teammates Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels were taken straight from a win over Milwaukee to the police station to turn themselves in -- from double overtime to possibly doing time.

They face felony and misdemeanor charges for a bar fight. In a shocking announcement, the players' attorneys insisted their clients did nothing wrong.

And that's where they're wrong. They did at least one thing wrong: They were at a bar, after midnight.

Not that being at a bar in the wee hours is against the law; it's just asking for trouble. Your parents were right: Nothing good happens after midnight -- especially in a bar or a nightclub.

Combine famous, wealthy athletes -- who often flaunt their wealth with gaudy jewelry and luxury automobiles -- with alcohol and bar patrons, and you have a recipe for disaster and film at 11.

Let's go to the highlights:

-- Pacman Jones, who has been interviewed by police eight times since the Titans drafted him in 2005, recently was a central figure in an incident at a Las Vegas strip club that left three men shot and one of them paralyzed. The trouble began when Jones showered strippers with $81,000 in cash and various people started collecting the money. One witness said the gunman arrived and left with Jones and his party.

It's the third time criminal charges have been filed against Jones in nightclub altercations.

-- Tank Williams, who had to get permission from a judge to leave the state to play for the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, has been arrested twice at Chicago nightclubs. In December, Johnson and his bodyguard went clubbing again; this time his bodyguard was shot and killed.

-- Ray Lewis and friends were at a Super Bowl party at an Atlanta nightclub in 2000 when they became embroiled in a brawl that left two men stabbed to death.

-- Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was shot to death in a limousine at 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve following a heated argument at a Denver nightclub between his group and another group.

-- Bengals wide receiver Reggie McNeal was charged with resisting arrest at 2 a.m. after he was denied entrance to a Houston club last year.

-- Teammate Chris Henry was charged with possession of a concealed firearm after police said he pulled a gun and pointed it at a crowd during a confrontation outside a Florida nightclub in 2005.

-- Falcons cornerback Elijah Williams was shot in the leg outside an Atlanta bar in 2001 during what police called a robbery attempt.

-- Steelers linebacker Joey Porter was one of five people shot at a Denver sports bar in 2003.

-- Seahawks safety Ken Hamlin suffered a season-ending head injury as result of a bar fight in 2005.

-- Three NBA stars reportedly were held up in separate incidents in Denver during the 2006 NBA All-Star weekend. None filed reports with police.

-- Nuggets guard Julius Hodge was shot four times in his car last year after leaving a Denver nightclub.

-- Antoine Walker, playing for the Celtics at the time, was robbed of $100,000 worth of jewelry and cash outside a nightclub in 2000.

-- Nets guard Stephon Marbury and teammate Chris Childs were robbed of a total of nearly $200,000 in jewelry and cash (including a $150,000 diamond-encrusted necklace) in separate incidents at the same New York nightclub in 2000 and 2002, respectively.

-- Celtics star Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub at 1 a.m. in 2000.

-- The Pacers' Stephen Jackson was hit by a car during a fight outside a strip club last October. He faces felony and misdemeanor charges for, among other things, firing a gun.

"Athletes are easy prey," says Rob Johnson, a so-called New York street agent associated with several NBA players. "They have money and everybody knows it. Street culture has a mentality all its own: You get points for robbing famous guys."

No one says it's fair that professional athletes can't go where they please, but that's the price of their fame and money. There's always the risk of resentment, of jealousy, of someone wanting to prove something, or robbery. It's not an athlete's nature to back down, but to do otherwise risks life, limb, reputation and career. And the desperate people athletes sometimes encounter on the streets or in bars are different than the men they meet on the athletic field.

I remember something coach Rick Majerus told his team before they arrived in New York to play in the 1992 NIT. As the team bus from the airport to our hotel on Times Square neared our destination, Majerus rose out of his seat and stood in the aisle to address his players about street life. This is only a small part of what he said, and a close approximation of how he said it:

"You guys think you're tough," he began. "You have no idea. There are people here who would kill you just for looking at them wrong. They have nothing to lose. They don't care. Don't go to the wrong places. Don't get in confrontations. If you do, walk away."

Professional athletes should heed his advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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