Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
Yesterday's events concerning the Tampa Bay defensive end caused a huge panic for fans and brass alike. It is difficult to avoid likening Da'Quan's present situation to Plaxico's in 2008. However things are not as grim as they seem.
A foot in the right direction would be to refrain from maligning Bowers any more than we already have. Pundits and those in comments slammed him more than enough, and repeated disparagement does nothing for past events. Hopefully he's been scared into paying more attention in the future.
Unlike the most vocal critics, I am an attorney in New York and New Jersey, I live in Queens (near La Guardia Airport) and I am familiar with the New York Penal Code's articles on firearms. Previous articles are fully accurate as to what Bowers has been charged with, and what sentence he can receive. Those would be criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a class C felony, which carries a minimum 42 month sentence and a maximum of 15 years.
Those who commented on Sander's article were also on point in distinguishing Plaxico's incident from Da'Quan's. Burress faced an additional charge of reckless endangerment as the firearm discharged in public, which crippled him in plea negotiations. While both men, under the law, were in possession of loaded weapons, Da'Quan's gun was loaded by a created legal fiction. Reports indicated that his ammunition was located in the same vessel as the firearm -- and anything that can be readily loaded in New York is considered loaded. Plaxico actually had rounds in the weapon.
This difference may seem trivial under the law as both men share a charge, however this makes an immense difference during a plea negotiation.
Legal research will find that case law yields close to nothing relevant. Cases that go to trial for first time offenders have garnered the minimum punishment with the opportunity for early release (legal minimums are not absolute, especially for the financially endowed). It is unlikely that Bowers goes to trial, and probable he bargains with the DA.
As far as plea deals are concerned, the most relevant information would be closed and sealed -- not public record and only viewable by the Bar Association or federal agencies (FBI, CIA, DEA, etc.). In order to gain insight I've reached out to colleagues for deals they have personally negotiated.
The absolute best case scenario from what I have heard falls within an identical scenario: a man flew into New York with a checked weapon. He went to La Guardia and attempted to check a bag that contained a handgun and ammunition (once again, the gun was loaded by legal fiction). It was his first offense. Officers arrested him and the judge set bail at $10,000.00.
This individual agreed to a deal that enabled his release without bail, and was given an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) of six months. An ACD is a method for a judge to dismiss a case. The judge adjourns the case for a set period of time (6 months to 1 year), the case is dismissed and the charges are dropped should the defendant behave during the entirety of the adjournment. This is not probation. Because this occurred in New York, the case was sealed automatically by way of ACD.
In short: no bail, 6 months 'adjournment', no conviction/probation/community service, case was closed and sealed.
The larger question is, how likely Da'Quan Bowers is to receive a similar deal?
More likely than most would think. This scenario arises surprisingly often. New York is a heavy travel destination, and our gun laws are considered anywhere from strict to draconian. Those accustomed to travelling with their firearm and not familiar with travelling to New York hit this wall with poorly made assumptions. The most common excuse involves the assumption that an airport would have alerted them before taking off that they could not travel to New York with a firearm. Assumptions and forgetfulness, especially when state licenses are involved, apparently aren't as obvious across the board.
Bowers doesn't have any prior offenses, his gun was constructed to be loaded, he brought it to the attention of those in the airport rather than being searched, and the handgun is registered to him in another jurisdiction. All of these factors are helpful in the negotiation process. Those who face prison time with this typically have an unregistered handgun that is actually loaded and it was discovered on them during a search (rather than being readily offered). Many of these individuals also have prior convictions.
Another huge advantage is that Bowers has money. He will be able to afford a legal team, and if he has to, pay them to stall. I don't see this as necessarily probable yet he can explore that avenue. Fame in these instances works for people rather than against them.
Bowers already posted $10,000.00 bail, and that low amount demonstrates some leniency in the early stages. Taking the aforementioned facts into consideration, I believe he will get an ACD of 6 months to 1 year. If he is given community service, it will more than likely fall between 40 and 200 hours. Regardless, his attorneys will ensure he recoups bail with an appearance.
Bucs fans can be optimistic that any playing time he is likely to miss would be a 4 game suspension by the league, and that Tampa is not going to cut him. The former second round pick has never placed his character into question before and he has bought into Schiano's philosophy. Bouncing back from injury also showed his commitment to football, which is something management preaches as necessary. While his judgment has come to be suspect, I believe he'll be able to avoid being released from the team and incarceration. I don't believe he will be suspended harshly, if at all.
As long as there aren't any surprises we should refrain from being too worried about the arrest. I'm more concerned with Goodell's handling of this than the Queens DA. Let's hope that the rest of the team can get through the offseason.
Feel free to leave your questions in the comments, I'll answer them to the best of my ability.