It was pretty clear from the beginning that New York Giants star receiver Plaxico Burress was going to pay big-time after accidentally shooting himself in the men’s room of a Manhattan nightclub last year. That’s because New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasted no time pouncing on the moment, promising that the city would prosecute the 32-year-old wideout to the fullest extent of the law for illegally carrying a weapon.
On Tuesday, a teary-eyed Burress kissed his pregnant wife and young son goodbye before being escorted off to prison to begin his two-year prison term. "I want to apologize to my family,” Burress told Judge Michael Melkonian before sentencing. It was almost a year ago that Burress made the headlines when the .40-caliber weapon he had hidden in his waistband slipped down his pants leg and shot him in the leg as he tried to catch it.
A grand jury indicted Burress on two counts of weapons possession and one count of reckless endangerment, charges that draw a minimum 3½-year behind bars. But on Aug. 20, Burress pleaded to a single, lesser, charge of attempted criminal possession of a weapon. His license to carry a concealed weapon – which had expired six months earlier – was for Florida, not for New York or New Jersey, where Burress lived.
Burress’ attorney, Benjamin Brafman, who said the sentence is too harsh, said his client was thinking about his wife, Tiffany, and 2-year-old son, Elijah, when he copped the plea. "This was not an intentional criminal act," Brafman said. "In my judgment, a two-year prison sentence is a very severe punishment." Earlier, he called Burress "a fundamentally decent man,” adding that “this is a very real tragic case in many, many ways."
Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon agreed, describing the ordeal as “tragic … a sad, disappointing situation from the beginning.” He said that the team’s concern “has always been for Plax's welfare, and for his family, and that continues to be our overriding feeling.”
Burress could be out in 20 months, with good behavior, The Associated Press reports. If there is any encouraging news for the man who caught the winning touchdown in the 2008 Super Bowl, it is that another former NFL super star is back in the mix after enduring a similar fate. On Sunday, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick – now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles – will be eligible for his first regular-season game after serving almost two years on dogfighting charges.
"When I get out, I'll be 33, not 43," Burress said in an interview broadcast in August. "I'll still be able to run and catch. I'll still have the God-given ability to snag footballs; that's what I love to do. Of course, I want to play again."