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Giants' Burress headed to court amid rumors of possible plea deal

NEW YORK -- New York Giants star Plaxico Burress is returning to court Tuesday in his gun possession case amid ruminations of a plea deal and uncertainty over whether he will serve jail time.

Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub in November, has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree, a felony that requires a minimum jail sentence of 3 1/2 years and a maximum of 15 if convicted.

Age: 31

Height: 6-5  Weight: 232

College: Michigan State

Experience: 10 seasons

Statistics show that more than eight out of 10 people arrested in New York City in 2008 for the same charge Burress faces received a reduced charge, though some plea deals included jail time.

"This is going to be a close call," said Randy M. Mastro, a former prosecutor and deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani. "He's got a pretty compelling story to tell. ... But at the same time, there's been a tremendous public outcry, particularly by some politicians, about this famous figure having a weapon."

Rumors have swirled about a possible plea deal. On Monday, The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported a plea deal was being seriously considered and it appeared likely to include Burress serving some jail time.

A call to Burress' attorney, Ben Brafman, was not immediately returned Monday. The district attorney's office declined to comment.

Prosecutors commonly offer reduced charges in gun possession cases, considering past criminal history, arrest circumstances and the reason for having the weapon.

The 31-year-old wide receiver has no criminal record. The gun he was carrying had been licensed in Florida and only recently expired. It was not licensed in New York.

Burress has not spoken publicly about why he was carrying a gun, but some have speculated that he was carrying it for safety reasons after teammate and fellow wide receiver Steve Smith was robbed at gunpoint three days earlier after being driven to his residence in a chauffeur-driven car.

"There's a pretty compelling story that there were traps in the circle of players which he traveled," Mastro said. "He has a story to tell the courts that is more sympathetic than the typical gun possession charge."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has waged a long campaign against illegal guns, has publicly castigated Burress for illegally carrying the .40-caliber weapon. And there was talk of a cover-up by the Giants and the NFL after the Nov. 28 incident at the Latin Quarter; it took police nearly 12 hours to figure out Burress had shot himself and was hospitalized, and the player turned himself in three days later.

"He's a public figure, the case has become a notorious one," Mastro said. "His fame may not help him in this case."

Burress is scheduled for trial in the state Supreme Court before Judge Michael Yavinksy, although the judge presiding over the case could change.

Precedence is on Burress' side. Only about 14 percent of the people charged last year with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree -- the same charge that Burress faces, are ultimately convicted of that charge, said John Caher, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Of the 1,248 people in New York City initially arrested on second-degree criminal weapons possession in 2008, 184 were convicted of the charge. About half were convicted of a misdemeanor or violation, and the remaining convictions were usually lesser felonies with some jail time.

Reduced charges in similar cases include attempted possession or third-degree gun possession which result in lesser or no jail time. It's not clear whether a plea deal will result in Burress serving any jail time.

Burress' Giants teammates have been supportive about his return, but they're concerned about the future of the team without him. The Giants lost four of their final five games after Burress was suspended, fined and placed on the non-football injury list, meaning he also could not appear in the playoffs. The Giants finished 12-5, losing at home in the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants, who signed Burress to a five-year, $35 million contract extension in September, have left the door open for Burress to return once his legal issues are resolved.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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