One of our Twitter followers (thanks, @giants1975) asked whether we’d heard the rumor that lawyers for receiver Plaxico Burress have commenced the process of seeking a pardon.
A source close to the situation tells us that, to the source’s knowledge, there’s currently no such effort, but the source didn’t rule it out.
And, frankly, we think it might be worth trying.
As pointed out in our recent PFTV segment on the matter, the stiff sentence to a high-profile football player will help to advance the goal of deterrence.
But we’re still troubled by the fact that prosecutors have the ability to hand-pick the defendants who’ll be given a pass, and those who’ll spend 3.5 years in the “slammer,” as Mayor Michael Bloomberg described it after Burress was arrested.
Second-degree possession of a loaded and unlicensed weapon entails the mandatory minimum sentence of 3.5 years. But third-degree possession — a crime virtually identical to second-degree possession — has no minimum sentence.
As a result, and as Sal Paolantonio of ESPN pointed out earlier this year, similar cases have generated widely dissimilar outcomes.
Of the defendants pleading guilty to third-degree possesion, 24 percent (i.e., nearly one out of four) were placed on probation and served no time in jail. Another 41 percent served more than a year in jail, 24 percent served a year, 6 percent served less than one year, and another 6 percent served a mixture of jail and probation. (We know that the total is 101 percent, probably due to rounding.)
So two years seems unfair on its face, especially since Burress has no criminal history (of which we’re aware) and shot only himself.
That said, pardons are available only to the politically connected.
Though NFLPA Executive Director De Smith has a pipeline to Attorney General Eric Holder, it’s unknown whether and to what extent Smith has any juice with New York Governor David Paterson.
Frankly, we’d support a pardon of Plaxico Burress. Or even a commutation of the sentence, like the one Scooter Libby received from President Bush after being convicted for lying to federal investigators.
Burress has accepted responsibility for his crime, unlike Libby ever did. More importantly, giving Burress a pass will do nothing to lessen the message that has been sent to every New Yorker and anyone who’ll visit there: If you have a loaded gun and you don’t have a license to carry it in New York, don’t carry it in New York.
Share your thoughts below, PFT Planet. Though Burress has done more than his fair share of stupid things, we think two years in jail is far too long.
[UPDATE: We previously suggested that the pardon would come from the President. As some of you accurately have pointed out, the President grants pardons only for federal offenses. (I must have missed that day in law school.) A pardon of Burress would come from Paterson.]