- Lester Munson, Legal Analyst
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When Plaxico Burress walks out of the Oneida Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Rome, N.Y., on Monday morning, he will still have to complete two years of supervised parole. The parole and its requirements raise questions and issues that Burress must face as he seeks to return to the NFL. Here are some of the questions and their answers:
Where will Burress go after his release?
According to parole authorities in New York and Florida, Burress will reside in Lighthouse Point, Fla., and must report to his assigned parole officer within 24 hours after he arrives in South Florida. He will be a bit more comfortable in his house than he was in the N.Y. penitentiary. It's a 6,872 square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom house on the Intercoastal Waterway with easy access to the beach and the ocean.
He paid nearly $4 million for the house in September 2005. The Broward County appraiser now lists the market value of the house at $2.2 million. Although Burress took a mortgage when he purchased it, he paid it off in February 2006 and now owns it free and clear of any debt. The annual taxes on the property are $38,094.93.
What is "parole?" What does it mean for Burress?
Burress will be one of approximately 16,000 offenders under the supervision of parole authorities in eight offices in Broward County whose population is 1.8 million. Under the terms of his parole, Burress must be in regular or frequent contact with the parole office and must conform to specific standards of behavior. If he fails to maintain contact with his parole officer or violates the specific condition of his parole, he would face a return to the penitentiary.
If there is a violation, the action comes swiftly and decisively. There is no trial. The parole officer reports the violation to the court, and in a matter of a day or two, the offender can be on his way to additional incarceration. If, on the other hand, Burress tells the parole agent what he is doing and conforms to the other requirements, he will sail through the two years and emerge as a totally free individual in June 2013.
What are the terms of his parole?
The "conditions of release" that will govern Burress' life on parole begin with a requirement that he "proceed directly" from the prison where he has spent 21 months to his home in South Florida. If, for example, he had a burning desire on Monday or Tuesday to go to Las Vegas or Disney World, he would first have to obtain permission from his parole officer. Once he's arrived in Florida, he will be subject to a nightly curfew. If he wants to travel anywhere for an NFL tryout or a vacation, he must obtain permission.
The other requirements are what you would expect: no drugs, no guns, no arrests, and drug testing. The New York authorities have also required Burress to submit to "anti-aggression, anti-violence counseling." Neither the New York nor the Florida authorities would offer specifics on the counseling.
Will the parole requirements interfere with Burress' attempt to return to the NFL?
There could be two obstacles blocking a return to the NFL. Both can be solved if Burress cooperates and works with his parole officer. First, he must obtain specific permission for any trip, including trips for tryouts or contract negotiations. The lockout prohibits any of this activity, but when the lockout ends, Burress must make sure that his parole officer knows of even a one-day trip.
Second, Burress is not permitted to "fraternize" with any person he knows to "have a criminal record." That would seem to eliminate any chance of Burress joining Michael Vick on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster. But if Burress is forthright in his communication with his parole officer, it would be possible to waive the rule, allowing him to join the Eagles.
Can Burress succeed on parole? Will he be able to avoid further legal problems?
After 21 months in a medium-security penitentiary, Burress should have learned something. If he pays attention to the details of the parole requirements and informs his parole officer regularly of his activities, Burress will succeed. But, if he again does something as breathtakingly dumb as he did with the gun in the club in New York, he will very quickly be back in prison.
Parole is no joke. Parole officers have seen and heard every kind of excuse and explanation. You cannot fool them. But with a bit of effort, Burress could successfully serve this sentence.
Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne