Plaxico Indicted; Pierce Catches a Break

Wide receiver is indicted on weapons charges

A Manhattan grand jury has indicted ex-New York Giant Plaxico Burress on weapons charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau today announced that Burress will face trial on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and one count of reckless endangerment after he accidentally shoot himself with an pistol last year. The grand jury did not indict his former teammate, Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce.

"The case required a more protracted investigation than does a typical weapons possessions case, given the number of witnesses and the need to investigate events both before and after the shooting,” the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said in a statement. “The case was treated like any similar case against any other defendant. Ultimately, the grand jury did what it thought was fair.”

Burress shot himself in the thigh during the Nov. 29 incident inside a Manhattan nightclub. Burress has pleaded not guilty and is free on $100,000 bail.

Burress caught the game-winning touchdown for the New York Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl. He is a free agent after the team released him on April 3. 

He's likely to remain a free agent for a good long while as a result of the grand jury's decision. The NFL hasn't suspended Burress yet, but even if his trial doesn't begin until 2010 there's little chance he'll see a football field.  

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has disciplined players in the past, most notably Michael Vick, before the completion of legal proceedings. It is unlikely that the image conscious league (or any of its teams) would be willing to allow a player to play while awaiting trial on charges that carry combined mandatory minimum sentences of eight years. 

The spectre of those sentences may finally loosen Burress from his reluctance to accept a plea bargain involving any jail time. He has never denied possessing the weapon publicly, and presumably didn't in front of the grand jury either. That satisfies most of what the prosecution needs to set forth to make their case. Juries are unpredictable, of course, but if your hope is to one day resume a NFL career, that's not a risk worth taking.

Pierce, who was accused of hiding the weapon after the shooting, got the leniency that Burress sought by asking the grand jury to weigh his intentions more heavily than his actions. That's good news for the Giants, who need their starting middle linebacker, although it's too soon to say whether or not Goodell will rule that Pierce's actions still constituted a violation of the league's Personal Conduct Policy. A one or two game suspension is far better than what his former teammate is looking at, however, so it's still cause for celebration.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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