By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 3, 2009 4:00 PM
A grand jury voted Monday to indict former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress on charges stemming from the incident last November in which Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a New York nightclub, the Manhattan district attorney's office announced.
The grand jury voted not to indict Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce for his role in the incident, according to the prosecutors' announcement.
Burress was indicted on two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment in the second degree, according to the announcement by the DA's office.
Burress faces 3-1/2 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the weapon possession charges--his sentences for the two counts, if convicted of both, would run concurrently--and up to one year in jail if convicted of the reckless endangerment charge, according to announcement.
No date has been set for Burress's arraignment.
"In this case, we conducted a thorough investigation and then presented the evidence to the grand jury, which evaluated the facts under the applicable law," Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, said in a written statement released by his office. "The case required a more protracted investigation than does a typical weapons possession case, given the number of witnesses and the need to investigate events both before and after the shooting. The case was treated like any similar case against any other defendant. Ultimately, the grand jury did what it thought was fair."
Morgenthau previously had said publicly that prosecutors believe Burress should spend time in jail, whether through a conviction or plea deal. No plea agreement has been reached so far.
The written announcement by the district attorney's office said: "At the time the defendant shot himself, he was not licensed to carry or possess that pistol in either New York or New Jersey, where he had a home. His license to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Florida had expired in May of 2008. Even if that license had not expired, the states of New York and New Jersey do not recognize out-of-state concealed weapon carry licenses."
Burress is a free agent after being released by the Giants.
He also faces potential disciplinary action by the NFL under its personal conduct policy.
Burress and Pierce testified separately last week before the grand jury.
Pierce accompanied Burress to the nightclub and allegedly was in possession of the gun after the shooting.
The grand jury voted not to indict Pierce, and the Giants expressed relief that their middle linebacker appears to be out of legal jeopardy.
"We certainly agree with the grand jury's decision," John Mara, the team's co-owner, said in a written statement released by the club. "We said last week we felt strongly that Antonio's actions did not warrant criminal charges, and obviously the grand jury, having heard all of the testimony, felt the same way."
Steve Tisch, the Giants' other co-owner, said in a written statement: "This was an extremely serious matter that Antonio and our organization responded to in an appropriate way. Needless to say, we are happy with the decision announced today by the Manhattan district attorney's office."
Pierce reportedly also has been cleared by the league and won't face disciplinary action by the NFL.
Pierce reported to training camp with the Giants on Sunday in Albany, N.Y.
"Antonio is a leader on this team, but he is still human, and this has been an emotionally draining experience for him," Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said in a written statement. "We know he was happy to get to training camp [Sunday], and with this behind him, he can focus all his energy and efforts on football. He took this matter very seriously."
Coach Tom Coughlin said in a written statement: "We are anxious to start the new season, nobody more than Antonio. Today's decision allows him and this team to move forward and focus on our preparation for the season."
Mara had expressed support for Pierce last week, saying in a written statement that charges against Pierce were unwarranted. Coughlin had said Sunday in Albany that the club was fully supportive of Pierce.