Burress appears in court, has bail set at $100,000
|New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, left, leaves the courthouse with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, in New York, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Burress appeared in court on weapons possession charges.|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Taken to court in handcuffs, Plaxico Burress posted $100,000 bail on weapons possession charges Monday as the frenzy grew around the Giants star receiver who accidentally shot himself in a nightclub. Authorities said teammate Antonio Pierce was being investigated over his role in the weekend shooting, while the Super Bowl-champion Giants weren't sure what action they would take, if any, against Burress.
The NFL said it was monitoring developments. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also weighed in, saying it would be an outrage "if we didn't prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."
Burress shot himself in the right thigh in the VIP section of the Latin Quarter nightclub in Manhattan about 1 a.m. Saturday, police said. He did not have a permit to carry a handgun in New York.
A witness reported hearing a popping sound before Burress' legs began to shake, according to a criminal complaint. It said the person saw a bloody pistol fall out of his pant leg and land on the floor before Burress said "Take me to a hospital."
It's believed Pierce took Burress to a car and then left with him, according to police. Burress was treated at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and released later Saturday.
Burress was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, which could result in a prison sentence of 3 1/2 years to 15 years if he is convicted. He was not required to enter a plea Monday and is due back in court on March 31. Burress did not say anything in court.
"He is standing tall. He is a mature adult," said Benjamin Brafman, his defense lawyer. "I think any professional athlete in this situation would be concerned."
He said Burress is feeling OK. "If they let him play, he will be able to play. ... I think he will be a superstar for the rest of his career."
Originally, police had said that running back Derrick Ward was with Burress and Pierce at the club, relying on information given to them from security guards at the bar. But police said later that it was unclear if Ward was at the club, and the running back denied that he was.
The Giants have not decided what to do with Burress, who was suspended for a game and fined earlier this season for missing a team meeting in September. New York could either suspend him again or deactivate him for Sunday's game at home against the Eagles. There are more extreme actions, such as releasing Burress, but that could put a strain on the team's salary cap next season.
"We're dealing with that," coach Tom Coughlin said in a conference call Monday. "Today we had some discussions and those discussions will be ongoing."
Coughlin would not speculate what the team would do if Burress showed up for practice Wednesday.
Police have looked at security video from the club and hospital and determined that Burress arrived at 1:20 a.m. and left at 1:50 a.m. He arrived at the hospital at 2:04 a.m. and went home 11 hours later.
The shooting occurred as Burress somehow fumbled his gun - .40-caliber Glock - in the VIP section and it discharged, hitting his leg. Pierce was with Burress when that occurred, police said. The weapon was eventually recovered at Burress' house in New Jersey, authorities said.
Police expressed frustration with the NFL and Giants officials, saying they were promised that Pierce would appear at a police precinct Monday where Burress went before heading to court. But Pierce didn't show. Detectives also went to Pierce's house in New Jersey and he was not there.
Police said the Giants did send a member of their medical staff to the precinct who may be able to shed some light on what transpired the night of the shooting, and presumably to relay Pierce's version of events.
"It was a universe of silence after this shooting," said Paul Browne, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for public information.
Pierce declined to provide specifics about the incident Monday during a radio interview, but said that many facts of the case have been "misconstrued" and "distorted." He has hired an attorney but that he doesn't see himself being arrested, he said.
"Today has been a headache and that's about all I can say," he told WFAN.
The Giants released a statement disputing the police version of their involvement. "We are working closely with the police and NFL Security," it said. "In the early hours of Saturday morning, as we started to get a sense of what we were dealing with, we did, in fact, notify NFL Security, which then contacted the police."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello also said in a statement the league was cooperating. "In addition, it will be reviewed under our league policies," he said.
The case drew the wrath of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has waged a long fight against illegal guns. He called for a full prosecution of state law that requires mandatory prison for carrying a loaded handgun.
"I don't think anybody should be exempt from that, and I think it would be an outrage if we didn't prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, particularly people who live in the public domain, make their living because of their visibility - they're the role models for our kids," Bloomberg said. Brafman urged the mayor to reserve judgment.
Bloomberg also lashed out at the hospital, based on the allegation that officials may not have properly reported the shooting. "It's just an outrage that the hospital didn't do what they were legally required to do," he said.
The hospital responded with a statement saying that officials "take this very seriously, and are conducting a thorough investigation into why this gunshot wound was not reported to the police department in a timely fashion."
Burress caught a last-minute touchdown pass in the Giants' Super Bowl victory against the New England Patriots in February, following a regular season in which he scored a career-high 12 TDs. He was rewarded with a $35 million, five-year contract.