There he was in a gray suit, walking past the media straight into the standard issue black SUV. His attorney, Ben Brafman spoke with the throngs holding microphones.
It was the long awaited day for a pre-trial hearing in Manhattan's criminal court building at which it was expected that New York Giants wide receiver, Plaxico Burress would plead to the charges against him.
But late the prior day Brafman announced he had arranged for a postponement of the substance of the hearing while intense negotiations regarding a plea deal continued between him and the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
The appearance in court at the appointed time was merely a formality and the judge granted the request for an adjournment until two months hence.
Burress is facing second degree felony charges for illegal gun possession and fighting for his ability to stay out of prison. In the course of the last couple of months there were discussions in the sports media about whether he would be welcomed back into the Giants' family after the team suspended him for his transgression.
What was striking to me was the lack of acknowledgment that the team might not have to face that issue at all. The charges he's facing could put Burress behind bars although not for the term of 3-4 years which is what a second degree gun charge allows for under the worst of conditions. It's unlikely he'll do a year inside but even that number frightens him as well it should. That is what comes along with having stupidly carried an unlicensed gun into a night club and having it go off unexpectedly.
The law had been changed prior to Burress "oops" moment and a strict interpretation makes it irrelevant if he intended to use the weapon. There is a possibility that he might plead to lesser charges or just have his lack of a record and the obvious issue of his stupidity rather than a criminal intent be taken into account in determining the length of any jail sentence.
Burress and Brafman are fighting tooth and nail to get him off easy with no time on the inside or at the very worst a sentence that wouldn't interfere with his ability to play football when the 2009 season gets underway in September.
Unfortunately for Plaxico, Mayor Bloomberg upped the ante on his case when he publicly rebuked him and appealed to the public's sense of fairness. Bloomberg's point was that a celebrity shouldn't get any special treatment under the new, tougher gun law in the City of New York.
What we learned about Burress after this incident is that he has a long history of making a mess, not dealing with it til it blows up and then cuts a check to make it go away. But most of the trouble he gets in stems from his apparent distance from what it takes to live an average life in this country. Things like renewing insurance, obtaining a gun license, sticking to agreements for promotional opportunities and of course showing up to team meetings like the other 52 players on the Giants.
Whether he is in that class of citizens with a lot of money who hire people to care for everyday matters is unimportant when those he hires fail him. The buck stops at him. But that is a well worn road to tread on and it seems unlikely he'll learn from this incident absent him paying a stiff price.
Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL is still lurking even if Plaxico manages to avoid prison. As the disciplinary king of the league, Goodell will mete out punishment in the form of a suspension. That is what happens after a player in the league is involved in criminality. The Giants could be without him for a couple of months after he gets out of prison or if he serves no time, the clock on a suspension would begin on the day or the first game played.
In the meantime, a sober looking Burress now knows that ignoring rules he claims not to understand or even know exist can make him face a tougher reality than he ever dreamed possible.
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