Burress arrives to give testimony

Updated: July 29, 2009, 11:48 AM ET
By Sal Paolantonio | ESPN.com

Former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who faces a weapons charge for shooting himself in the thigh at a nightclub last year, arrived for his testimony Wednesday before a Manhattan grand jury.

Burress
Burress

Burress and his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, made no remarks as they entered the lower Manhattan courthouse.

Brafman told ESPN on Tuesday that he is making the unusual maneuver of having Burress testify because he believes it is important for the grand jury to hear his client's side of the story.

"There are many mitigating circumstances in this case," Brafman said Tuesday. "First, the gun was not used in the commission of a crime. The only victim here was Plaxico Burress. And the gun was registered in the state of Florida, which has reciprocating registration agreements in 32 states. My client was under the impression that the same was the case in the city of New York."

Brafman said he hopes that Burress' testimony will serve to balance out some of the comments made by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, whom Brafman characterized as having "a lapse in judgment" by speaking publicly about the Burress case while the case is in front of the grand jury.

Morgenthau told the New York Post that Burress, who shot himself with an unlicensed gun early on the morning of Nov. 29, was willing to agree to spend a year in jail, but prosecutors insisted on two, the newspaper reported.

"We've always taken the position that he's going to have to go to jail, whether by trial or by plea," Morgenthau said, according to the Post.

Burress is charged with criminal possession of a weapon and faces up to 3 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $100,000 bail. The Giants released the receiver in April.

Brafman said earlier Monday that he was "disappointed and surprised" that Morgenthau spoke publicly while a grand jury decision on indicting Burress is pending.

"My concern is that the comments by the district attorney's office may have irreparably prejudiced those proceedings," Brafman said Monday. "I am now considering the legal options available to respond."

The investigation also involves Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who was with Burress at the club at the time of the incident and drove him to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center but did not call police to report the shooting.

"Our organization, including Antonio Pierce, has cooperated fully with the police and the DA's office from the outset of their respective investigations," Giants president John Mara said in a statement Tuesday. "However, since the District Attorney's office has seen fit to publicly discuss the details of the potential case against Burress and has suggested it will seek to charge Antonio, we feel it is necessary to offer the following: while we in no way condone Antonio's decision to be in a nightclub in Manhattan less than two days before a game, we cannot understand the DA's position that Antonio is subject to criminal charges. When this incident occurred, Antonio reacted out of concern for the health and well-being of Plaxico Burress. His first priority was to make sure Plaxico received proper medical attention for what very well could have been a life-threatening wound.

"There was no criminal intent on the part of Antonio, who was thrust into this predicament simply because he accompanied Plaxico that evening and because he made the decision to immediately take Plaxico to the hospital. We believe it is unwarranted for the DA's office to press criminal charges against Antonio under these circumstances."

Burress, who caught the winning touchdown in the final minute for the Giants in their 2008 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, also could face disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league's personal conduct policy.

Burress has yet to sign with another NFL team. Goodell's office announced in June that the league already had begun its examination of the incident.

Sal Paolantonio covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Sal Paolantonio

SportsCenter correspondent / NFL reporter
Sal Paolantonio joined ESPN as a SportsCenter correspondent in August 1995, primarily reporting on the NFL. Beginning in 2004, he also served as host of NFL Match-Up, a weekly "Xs and Os" football show produced by NFL Films.

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