Is Plaxico Burress Getting a Raw Deal?

Graeme FrisqueContributor IIDecember 4, 2008

Before I justify the title of this article, I would like to make one thing clear.  Plaxico Burress is a moron for what he did. 

There really is no excuse for carrying an unlicensed, loaded handed gun, with the safety switch off in your pants, into a club.  He might not have got what he deserved, but you could say he got what was coming to him. He shot himself in the leg.

By now chances are pretty good that you have heard about what occurred in Plaxico Burress' world last weekend, so what I am telling you probably isn't news.


This whole mess got me thinking about my old friend George, who once upon a time was hit by a cab in Toronto while jaywalking.  He was taken to the hospital to have his wounds cared for and he eventually made a full recovery. 

When he awoke at the hospital after treatment he was shocked to find that the police had come by while he was still unconscious and left him a ticket for jaywalking sitting on the night stand.

Although the charges Plaxico is facing are far more serious than a moving violation, and I think he is guilty as sin, I was a little shocked when I read earlier today that he is facing a mandatory 3-1/2 year prison sentence if he is convicted of carrying an unlicensed handgun.

The guy shot himself in the leg by accident, and now he might go to about kicking a guy when he's down.

Now, I don't know about everyone else, but I remember being taught that prison was for people who were a danger to society at large; not for people who are a danger to themselves.

If I'm drunk and speeding and I crash into someone causing them bodily harm, I could go to jail. I was negligent and that negligence led to someone else being killed or injured.  Restitution must be paid for that, both to the individual who was injured and to society. 

Now, if I'm drunk and speeding and I hit a tree, only doing bodily harm to myself; it would suck, and I'd probably lose my driver's license, but chances of me going to jail would be pretty slim.

Plaxico Burress has certainly demonstrated that he should never be allowed to carry a gun again, or ever be issued another permit to do so, but I don't see how he is a danger to society at large and deserves to be sent to prison for what he did. 

He was the only victim of his crime.  Some might argue that the New York Giants were another victim.  Others might claim it was a blessing for the team.  Either way the only real victim here, who also happens to be the suspect, is in fact Plaxico Burress.

Burress is also experiencing something that many celebrities and professional athletes experience when dealing with the justice system. Lawmakers using the media spotlight that follows their suspects to gain exposure for their policies, or to further their own careers.

Let's face it, jailing one Plaxico gets a public official more media exposure and face time than however many hundreds of real criminals that he or she jailed for the same crime, altogether. An opportunity to gain this kind of media exposure without first having screwed up really badly, or having been exposed as corrupt is rare for public officials.

It is not inconceivable that one or two members of the Justice System involved with the case may take advantage of Plaxico`s spotlight and treat him differently than they would an ordinary suspect.  Perhaps in order to make a self serving legal or political statement; or even simply to just make an example out of the guy.

Either way I find it odd that Plaxico Burress is facing a mandatory 3-1/2 sentence if convicted for what basically amount to him shooting himself in the leg, and Micheal Vick only got 18 months for running an illegal dog fighting ring and betting outfit.

The media, as usual, has jumped all over this thing and turned it into some kind of twisted social curiosity.  Plaxico Burress should be held to account for his actions, but public lashing he is receiving in the media is way, way over the top.

The punishment needs to fit the crime, and that should hold true not only in a court of justice, but the court of public opinion as well.

As much as I view Plaxico Burress' actions as almost nonsensical, a part of me is starting to feel bad for the guy. I think everyone involved—from the courts, to the media, to the NFL, to the fans—should maybe just take it easy on the guy a little bit.