Burress to appear at civil trial

Associated Press

LEBANON, Pa. -- Plaxico Burress told police that he had no knowledge of a 2005 shooting incident in the Bronx in which two people were seen firing off rounds from a sport-utility truck the New York Giants star borrowed from a dealer.

The oft-troubled wide receiver arrived at the Lebanon County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon for a civil trial to decide a dispute with the dealer over what the player should pay for damage to the 2004 Chevrolet Avalanche.


According to New York City police, officers saw two men firing off rounds from inside the truck on a Bronx street early on Aug. 20, 2005. It did not, however, appear that they were targeting anyone, police said.

Officers recovered two 9-mm pistols at the scene and arrested two people, one of them a cousin of Burress, police said.

Investigators contacted Burress, who came in with a lawyer more than two weeks later for questioning. Burress signed a statement saying he had loaned the car to a cousin but that he had no knowledge of the incident and was at practice at the time of the shooting.

Burress' attorney Benjamin Brafman says he was told that at the time of the incident Burress was with the team at a New Jersey hotel because the Giants had a home preseason game later that day.

Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon declined to discuss Burress' exact whereabouts at the time of the shooting.

Charges against Burress' cousin were dropped. The other person in the car pleaded guilty in March 2006 to criminal possession of a weapon, police said.

Police said they released the car to the dealer in January 2007.

The car dealer, Frederick Laurenzo, said he allowed Burress to borrow the vehicle worth more than $36,000 in exchange for Burress agreeing to sign autographs at promotional events.

But Laurenzo filed a civil complaint in September 2006 seeking restitution and accusing Burress of breach of contract because he never showed up to sign autographs and let someone else drive the vehicle. Laurenzo said Burress made no effort to help him get the damaged vehicle back.

After Laurenzo put a lien against Burress' house in Virginia, the sides agreed to an arbitration. A three-lawyer panel awarded more than $22,000 to Laurenzo last year, but Burress appealed.

Burress' lawyer in the vehicle dispute, Matthew T. Croslis, acknowledged Tuesday that Burress is responsible for some damages. The jury will have to decide how much, Croslis said.

The star receiver who caught the game-winning pass in last year's Super Bowl has been embroiled in controversy for months. Burress was charged with two counts of illegal weapons possession after he accidentally shot himself in the right thigh at a Manhattan nightclub on Nov. 29.

Burress, who received a five-year, $35 million contract extension from the Giants in September, turned himself in on the weapons charges and was released on $100,000 bail. He is due in court March 31.

After the self-inflicted shooting, the Giants suspended Burress, 31, for the remainder of the season.

In December, Burress was sued in Broward County, Fla., for an accident last May in which he allegedly drove his $140,000 Mercedes-Benz into the back of a woman's vehicle. The woman's attorney later said that Burress had failed to pay the premium on his car insurance, which had lapsed three days before the wreck.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press