Free Plaxico Burress. Leave Bernie Ebbers in stir

How do you justify sending a dopey footballer to the slammer while one of the biggest corporate crooks of our era would get to go home?

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
3 min read

So let's see whether I've got this straight. A white collar crook responsible for the biggest fraud in U.S. corporate history wants a presidential pardon. Meanwhile, a head case of a footballer who ran afoul of my native city's handgun laws may very well receive a mandatory prison sentence.

Plax in happier days CBS Sports

Jupiter is definitely not aligned with Mars.

By now, you're doubtless familiar with the public travail of one Plaxico Burress, the star receiver for (my beloved) New York Giants, who was arraigned for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Last week, Burress was out late (make that very late) partying at a Manhattan club when a gun he had allegedly stuck into his sweatpants accidentally fired a bullet into his thigh. Thankfully nobody else was hurt. (Burress is probably equally thankful that he didn't shoot off another piece of his anatomy.)

Burris is in a lot of trouble. He had a handgun permit issued by Florida. But as the Cato Institute's David Kopel points out in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, as an out-of-state resident, he could not register for a permit in New York. Personally, I would ban all handguns, but that's just me being a typical San Francisco leftist weenie.

And now Burress may get sent to jail because of a New York statute, which orders a mandatory sentence for anyone violating local gun laws. That's harsh. Of course, you might ask what he was doing packing a Glock when he was ostensibly out trying to bed groupies. Good question. So let's convict Burress for being a knucklehead. The fact is that you could find a lot of other people who also deserve to do time for that same offense.

I was thinking about Burress' predicament after learning that WorldCom's former CEO, Bernie Ebbers wants George Bush to commute the rest of his jail sentence. In 2005, he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy, thus earning him a prized place along side of Enron's Ken Lay in the dot-com era's pantheon of corporate liars, cheats, and scoundrels.

Next Weekend at Bernie's? CBS News

Let's recall that this is the same guy who helped pull off an $11 billion accounting fraud. Let's linger on that number for a moment. Eleven billion dollars. That's quite a sum, even in the bailout-crazed time we now inhabit. In the end, Ebbers' shenanigans finally came to light--but not before the largest corporate bankruptcy in this country's history.

So as the holidays approach, his lawyers figure that a lame duck president might be so sentimental as to grant a petition for clemency. It's hard to imagine that George Bush, battling the lowest poll numbers of his presidency, wants to add that one to his resume, though I suppose anything is possible. Heartless bastard that I am, I can't see how you justify sending Burress to the slammer while one of the biggest crooks of our era would receive a get-out-of-jail pass. That just does not add up.

Then again, Ebbers didn't scale the heights or fall from grace because he lacked for chutzpah.