In his appearance before a Manhattan grand jury last week, Burress had hoped to persuade jurors to overlook the technicalities of the law and refrain from indicting him. After all, Burress did not intend to commit a crime when carrying a .4 caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol into Manhattan's Latin Quarter nightclub last November. In accidentally shooting himself in the thigh, he was also the only person injured by his misdeeds. By putting a human face on the alleged possession crime, Burress may have also attempted to convince jurors of the excessiveness or unfairness of a law that imposes a minimum three-and-half-year prison sentence for mere possession of a loaded gun.
As the player who caught the winning touchdown pass in the Giants' stunning Super Bowl victory in 2008, Burress may have also believed that a group of New York citizens impaneled for a jury would take kindly to him. Burress would not have been the first celebrity to receive preferential treatment in court.
Unfortunately for Burress, the grand jury apparently disregarded both his narrative and fame and, instead, applied the letter of the law, which in this case is as unforgiving as it is clear. In New York, it is a felony to possess a loaded, unlicensed handgun outside of one's home or place of business. Unless Burress can show that he somehow did not possess the gun when he shot himself -- a circumstance that seems hard to imagine, let alone visualize, since he was purportedly carrying the gun in the waistband of his pants -- then he will have committed the crime.
Today's indictment is a victory for Manhattan district attorney
Although Burress faces the minimum sentence, prosecutors appear willing to accept a plea deal whereby Burress, a first-time offender, would plead guilty to a lesser offense and thus be sentenced to a shorter period behind bars. It is thought that prosecutors would agree to a two-year prison sentence, which, with good behavior and other factors, Burress might be able to shorten by several months. Still, absent a more successful Hail Mary attempt in a trial, it appears certain that Burress will be headed to prison.
Although unlikely, the trial version of a Hail Mary could come in the form of a constitutional challenge to New York law. Last year, in
While a constitutional law case emanating from Burress' legal woes might be engaging to imagine, it remains far-fetched. The more plausible scenario is that Burress will be spending time behind bars.