DA: Jail or Bust for Plaxico Burress

Burress wasn't willing to serve two years in prison

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau spoke to the New York Post about the Plaxico Burress gun-possession case, and his words don't make Burress' return to the field for 2009 look like a promising bet. Morgenthau said that jail time will be a prerequisite of any plea deal given out through his office.

 "We've always taken the position that he's going to have to go to jail, whether by trial or by plea," Morgenthau said.

And it isn't just any amount of jail time, either. Burress kiboshed a plea deal earlier this year when he refused to serve more than one year in the pen while prosecutors offered two years for his guilty plea on a lesser gun charge. Now it seems much more likely that Burress' case will go to trial, where he'll face a mandatory minimum of three-and-a-half years behind bars if convicted.

The vagaries of the legal system make that outcome far from certain, but the facts of the case don't do much for Burress. He shot himself with a gun that had an expired Florida permit, which makes most of the case for criminal possession of a weapon. Burress' lawyer told the Post that there are "unique" and "sympathetic" circumstances at play.

Beyond Plax's celebrity status, however, it's hard to see anything that makes this different than any other case of a person caught in NYC with an illegal gun. That celebrity status is undoubtedly a big part of any planned legal defense -- NFL players do need security -- but it's a helluva gamble to take with a career that will be interrupted until this case is dealt with.

Burress and his lawyers have also allowed themselves to become part of a political battle. Morgenthau, the 89-year-old retiring Manhattan district attorney, has come under fire from potential successor and former opponent Leslie Crocker Snyder for dragging his feet on the Burress case. Morgenthau doesn't want to sullly his long, distinguished resume by dropping the ball near the end zone, if you'll excuse the metaphor, nor does he want to make it harder for his chosen replacement, Cyrus Vance Jr., in the forthcoming election. 

It's interesting that, when all is said and done, Burress may wind up doing much more damage after shooting himself than he did when he actually shot himself. The gunshot, after all, wasn't going to get in the way of his career, but refusing a pay cut from the Giants and refusing to take a plea may force him out of football all the same.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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