Did Plaxico Burress Get a Fair Sentence?

The Giants wide receiver gets 2 years for gun possession

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Former NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress will serve 2 years in prison for possession of an illegal firearm, after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh outside a New York nightclub. It's a long fall for Burress, who just year made the crucial play for the Giants' Superbowl victory. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports tough gun laws, pushed the court not to show Burress any leniency, arguing that giving him "celebrity treatment" would be "a sham, and a mockery of the law." But some commentators say the sentence, part of a plea deal Burress took today, is too severe. Is the sentence fair?

  • Go Ahead New York, Make an Example of Him, says a New York Daily News editorial. Too many illegal weapons are on the streets of New York, they write. "Many simply haven't gotten the message. But thanks to Burress, they might. And the city would do well to plaster his mug shot and his sentence on subway ads to drive home the point that things have changed."
  • Burress Should Do Community Service, Not Jail Time, says Joanne Page of the New York Daily News. "Burress committed a serious crime, but real social justice would require him to pay for his offense in a more constructive way, not simply languishing in an expensive prison cell."
  • Don't Feel Bad for Plaxico, writes Alex Marvez at Fox Sports. "I can't say Burress didn't get what was coming to him. Burress made a huge mistake that was easily preventable had he done what is expected of every U.S. citizen -- even NFL players. That's following the law."

  • The Punishment Doesn't Fit the Crime, says Alex Akita. "If Burress serves the entirety of his prison sentence, he will have spent more time in jail than Michael Vick (18 months) and Donte Stallworth (24 days) combined. So what do you get when you add one genocidal dog killer with a vehicular homicidal drunk? Apparently you get a guy who shoots himself in the leg in a victimless crime."

  • Double Standards? asks Wilton Alston of the Lew Rockwell blog. Alston says Burress's sentence is harsh considering the way another New Yorker in illegal posession of a firearm was hailed as a hero just a week ago:
"This story from the NYPost presented a glowing commentary on Charles Augusto, Jr.  I agree with much of what it says.  There is little doubt that Mr. Augusto is a hero.  He defended his store, and more importantly, one of his employees, from armed thugs. He deserves to be commended."

But Alston isn't so sure the cases are that different. "The NY DA has made it publicly known that he wants Burress to serve three years in jail for discharging an unregistered firearm. Will he throw the (same) book at Augusto as well?  I don’t think so, but this question remains: Why or why not?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.