Former New York Giant Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty today to a weapons charge and agreed to a two-year prison term for accidentally shooting himself at a Manhattan nightclub.
NEW YORK — Former New York Giant Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty today to a weapons charge and agreed to a two-year prison term for accidentally shooting himself at a Manhattan nightclub.
The ex-wide receiver pleaded guilty to one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon, a lesser charge than he initially faced. Under a plea agreement, he agreed to a two-year prison sentence and two years of supervised release.
Burress was indicted earlier this month on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment. He faced a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years if convicted at a trial.
Burress' attorney said he hoped to resume his NFL career when he gets out of prison.
With time off for good behavior, the two-year sentence could be reduced to 20 months. Sentencing was set for Sept. 22 and if Burress were to go to prison soon after, he could be freed as early as the spring of 2011.
The guilty plea ends months of haggling between Burress' attorney and the Manhattan district attorney's office. The case went to a grand jury earlier this month after negotiations broke down, apparently because District Attorney Robert Morgenthau was insisting that Burress serve at least two years in prison.
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.
In a Manhattan state Supreme Court room on Thursday, the soft-spoken Burress, wearing a dark blue suit, peacock blue shirt and blue tie, first entered a not-guilty plea to the initial charges against him. After attorneys on both sides conferred, Burress said, "guilty" to the new attempted weapons possession charge.
His attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said in court that the 31-year-old Burress was thinking of his family in taking the plea, although he questioned the recommended prison sentence. Afterward, Brafman described Burress as having "an agonizing period of discussion" about taking the plea, but taking it so he could put the whole episode behind him quickly.
"This was not an intentional criminal act," Brafman said in court. "In my judgment, a two-year prison sentence is a very severe punishment."
Burress did not speak to reporters and left while his attorney addressed the media outside the courthouse.
Brafman called the case "a perfect example about how bad judgment can have very serious consequences" and said Burress was treated more harshly because he is a celebrity.
"If Plaxico Burress were not a high-profile individual, there never would be a case," he said. "If he were just John Q Public he could have walked out of the club and he never would have been arrested."
Burress would make a statement at his sentencing, and would try to begin serving his sentence immediately, Brafman said. He did not know where Burress would serve his time.
Burress and former teammate Antonio Pierce were at the Latin Quarter nightclub in late November when a gun tucked into Burress' waistband slipped down his leg and fired, shooting him in the right thigh. The bullet narrowly missed a nightclub security guard who was standing inches away, prosecutors said, lodged in the floor and was recovered by a bartender.
The gun was not licensed in New York or in New Jersey, where Burress lived, prosecutors said. His license to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Florida had expired in May 2008.
Prosecutors said Pierce drove Burress to a hospital, then took the gun to his own home in New Jersey where it was later delivered to Burress' home.
Pierce was not indicted. The grand jury 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.
Burress, who caught the winning touchdown for the Giants over the New England Patriots in the final minute of the 2008 Super Bowl, also could face disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Brafman said lawyer said he hoped any sanctions imposed by the NFL would run concurrent with Burress' prison sentence.
The Giants released Burress in April.