Plaxico Burress, the former All-Pro wide receiver for the New York Giants, pleaded guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court today to Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, pursuant to New York Penal Law 110/265.03. Although Burress had been facing a minimum of 3.5 years in state prison, prosecutors agreed to offer a lighter sentence of 2 years in state prison followed by 2 years of post-release supervision.
Despite Burress’ best efforts for “jury nullification,” a Grand Jury indicted him for an offense that did not require any intent to commit a crime. In other words, his mere possession of the loaded firearm outside his home or place of business without a permit would have landed him behind bars for up to 15 years. From a legal standpoint, although the minimum sentence on a plea was 3.5 years, by allowing Burress to plea to the attempted crime, as opposed to the actual completed crime, reduced the offense from a “C” violent felony to a “D” violent felony. Under New York law, a sentence of 2 years is a legal disposition for “D” violent crimes. Additionally, the term of post release supervision is mandatory regardless of which offense he pleaded to.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office certainly did not treat Burress as the hometown hero. At the same time, he wasn’t treated more severely than any other denizen of the city under the same set of circumstances. If, for example, the police merely arrested Burress for carrying a loaded firearm licensed outside of the state or the police arrested him for possessing a gun with an out of state permit locked away in a case to check at an airport, then a 2 year sentence would certainly be very harsh and arguably unjust. Under those examples, a defendant may take a felony plea, but a criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a misdemeanor deal as well. While not typical, people charged with the same or similar crimes have even avoided a criminal conviction all together if there are enough mitigating factors.
Burress’ case, while the same technical crime, is clearly distinguishable from those circumstances. Here, Burress not only possessed a loaded firearm without a permit in New York, but his permit lapsed out of state. To ratchet up the severity of this offense even further, he endangered the lives of others by inadvertently firing the gun inside a nightclub. Unfortunately, these facts along with the injury he suffered compounded the situation and elevated the gravity of the offense in the eye’s of the prosecution.
This case highlights the severity and seriousness of crimes involving guns. While each case is unique, if you possess a loaded firearm without a permit while you are walking the streets of New York you are putting yourself in grave danger with the law. Mitigating circumstances may reduce the crime or the sentence, but as Burress knows all too well, even the best attorneys may not be able to save you from yourself.