Ex-New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress’s decision to accept two years’ jail time on a weapons charge shows how athletes no longer are getting free passes for crime, says the Christian Science Monitor. The Burress case comes after former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s 18 months in prison for animal cruelty. (Vick now has joined the Philadelphia Eagles.) Prosecutors and judges sometimes are using the national spotlight to make a statement, legal experts say.
Burress illegally brought a gun into a nightclub and shot himself in the leg, and Vick ran a dogfighting ring. Burress’s lawyer suggested that “if Plaxico Burress were not a high-profile individual, there never would be a case.” Says former federal prosecutor Lisa Griffin: “No doubt there are cases where judges, jurors and even prosecutors are star struck. But it’s also true that, partly because there’s so much more attention on these cases than there was in the past, that both prosecutors and judges are more attentive to so-called ‘expressive’ consequences, meaning the signals sent by prosecutions and sentences.” When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was photographed using a marijuana-packed water pipe, it was hardly a significant law-enforcement issue, but police were obliged to get involved because of his celebrity, legal scholars say.