Plaxico Burress told police that he had no knowledge of a 2005 shooting incident in the Bronx in which two people were seen firing rounds from a sport-utility truck the New York Giants star borrowed from a dealer.
The oft-troubled New York Giants receiver ended up in a lawsuit over the truck, as a Lebanon, Pa., dealer sued Burress for damaging the 2004 Chevrolet Avalanche and failing to return it.
A civil trial began Wednesday afternoon in Pennsylvania. Burress and the car dealer, Frederick Laurenzo, gave conflicting accounts during the first 90 minutes of testimony. Laurenzo said he spoke by telephone to Burress and the agent, Robert Bailey, and had a verbal agreement about the details of the deal, in which Burress was to make promotional appearances for the dealership and was not to let anybody else drive the car.
Burress said he simply asked his agent to get a car for him and that he never spoke to Laurenzo about any conditions.
There was no mention during the initial testimony about how the truck ended up in the midst of a shooting incident in New York City.
According to New York 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.
Laurenzo said the vehicle was worth more than $36,000, but he loaned it to Burress because the NFL star agreed to sign autographs at promotional events.
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 also 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, 31, 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 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.