TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – Former pro football wide receiver Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty to tax evasion, but the troubled former NFL star will likely avoid jail time under the terms of his plea deal.
Burress was indicted in April of two counts of issuing a bad check through an electronic funds transfer, and willful failure to pay state tax.
Mercer County prosecutors claimed that while Burress filed a tax return in 2013, the electronic transfer of funds to cover his payment did not go through. The state says their Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services informed Burress about the issue, but received no response.
Burress’s legal situation arose in part due to a law New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law in Sept. 2014 that made failed electronic fund transfers a crime akin to writing a bad check.
Burress is the first person charged under the law, and he faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine if he was convicted of all charges.
Burress’ initially claimed he made a mistake and was not intentionally ignoring tax officials, but on Monday he pleaded guilty in Mercer County Criminal Court to failing to pay $48,000 in New Jersey taxes in 2013, the year he signed a $1 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Prosecutors said in exchange for Burress’ guilty plea, they dropped the charges related to the failed electronic funds transfer.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Burress must pay $56,000 in restitution (representing the amount of back taxes he owes, plus fines and interest), and faces up to five years on probation.
While he appears to have avoided prison for now, Burress could still land in jail if he fails to comply with the terms of the plea agreement, according to James Scott, one of the prosecutors assigned to the case.
This is not the first time Burress has had legal issues. Burress infamously was indicted on weapons charges in 2009 after he accidently shot himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub.
At the time, he was carrying a .40 caliber Glock in the waistband of his sweatpants, and the unlicensed firearm slipped down his leg, accidently discharging.
He ultimately served 20 months in prison over the incident.
Burress retired from the NFL in 2012 after playing 11 seasons with the Steelers, New York Giants and New York Jets.
As a player he is probably best remembered for catching the winning touchdown in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLII, cementing a Giants victory over the New England Patriots, who had been unbeaten that season.
Burress, 38, will be sentenced on Feb. 5, 2015, by Judge Pedro Jimenez Jr.
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