Aqib Talib pulls a Plaxico Burress.

How one of the top defensive players in the NFL could face serious gun charges as well as disciplinary action.

Photo by Charlie Lyons-Pardue

No one knows the full story.  However, everyone knows that Denver Broncos cornerback, Aqib Talib, was shot in the leg in Dallas, Texas on June 5, 2016.  It was only hours before media outlets started speculating as to the circumstances of the shooting.  Some speculated that he was hanging out with the wrong element, while others guessed that he was shot following a bar fight.  The theory that has gained the most momentum alleges that Talib’s gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

While Texas is known as a state with lax gun laws, if enough evidence indicates that Talib shot himself, he could face serious criminal charges.

Talib is not facing any type of criminal charges at the moment, however, the self-inflicted wound theory is making many speculate as to what kind of charges Talib could face.

The police report states that on June 5th at approximately 2:45 AM, Aqib Talib was one of the victims of an aggravated assault outside of the V Live nightclub.   The bullet went in the rear part of his right thigh and exited out of his calf.  Talib told police that he was shot in the leg a couple of miles from the club, but that he was too intoxicated to remember exactly how it happened.  He was transported to the hospital immediately after the shooting and was discharged on June 7.  Luckily, Talib only needed stitches and is expected to make a speedy, full recovery.

An investigation is underway to identify the shooter.  Talib is not facing any type of criminal charges at the moment, however, the self-inflicted wound theory is making many speculate as to what kind of charges Talib could face.

Jeff Legwold of ESPN wrote an article outlining possible criminal charges if Talib is found to have shot himself.  There are three main charges that Talib should fear.  Talib could be charged with 1.) carrying a weapon in public without a license into a place that sells alcohol, 2.) possessing a weapon while intoxicated, or 3.) discharging a weapon in public.

Under Penal Code 46.035(b)(1), carrying a weapon without a license, into a place that sells alcohol is considered a Class 3 felony.  A conviction carries a sentence of up to ten years.  Under Penal Code 46.035(d), a license holder commits an offense if, while intoxicated, the license holder carries a handgun regardless of whether the handgun is concealed or carried in a shoulder or belt holster.  This conviction carries a sentence of up to a year.  Under Penal Code 42.01(7), a person faces up to six months in jail for discharging a weapon in public.

The fact that there were other gunshot victims that night suggests that there was in fact, a gunman in the vicinity.  

Talib claims that he was shot at a park two miles away from the club where he was earlier in the night.  However, it if comes to light that he shot himself, chances are he was carrying the firearm on his person while he was at the club.  If evidence shows that Talib had a firearm at the club that night, the next big issue that police will try and determine is whether Talib had a permit for the firearm.  The trajectory of the bullet that went through Talib’s leg and hearsay that the wound was self-inflicted are the only pieces of evidence that support the theory that Talib shot himself.  The facts in the police report, however, are not so one-sided that a self-inflicted wound seems like the most likely scenario.  Two other people were shot at the same club that Talib had attended on June 5th.  The fact that there were other gunshot victims that night suggests that there was in fact, a gunman in the vicinity.

Of course, it is possible that the ghost of Plaxico Burress’s career has made the public skeptical of Talib’s version of events.  In 2008, then-star receiver for the New York Giants, Plaxico Burress, was charged with two felony counts of possession of a weapon in the second degree, after shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub in New York.  The ordeal ended with Burress accepting a plea deal that put him in prison for two years with an additional two years of supervised release.  Burress’s crime gained notoriety across the country.  He was the punch line of every late night comedian’s jokes, as well as front-page news for ESPN and other outlets.  Although the incident is almost ten years old, many have already suggested that Talib’s wounds were self-inflicted by comparing the suspicious nature of the facts to Burress’s 2008 crime.

If Talib is convicted and sentenced to jail, his age, combined with a lack of play on the field could jeopardize how long he plays in the NFL.  Burress was thirty-two when he was convicted.  When Burress was released from prison, he attempted a comeback, but was unsuccessful due to his age and lack of play over the previous two years.  Talib is thirty-years-old and the shelf life for cornerbacks is shorter than that of a receiver in the NFL.  Assuming Talib is convicted for possessing an unlicensed firearm in an establishment that serves alcohol, he could face jail time that could supplant his remaining twilight years in the league.  However, even if Talib is only convicted of one of the lesser charges and gets a minimal punishment, the conviction could still be fatal to his career.

One of the most contentious powers under the agreement is the commissioner’s power to impose penalties for off the field conduct.  

Many are already speculating as to what kind of action the NFL will take pursuant to the personal conduct policy under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  The NFL collective bargaining agreement is a labor agreement, which reflects the results of collective bargaining negotiations between a player’s union known as the National Football League Players Association and NFL team owners.  The rules under the collective bargaining agreement are valid until 2020.  One of the most contentious powers under the agreement is the commissioner’s power to impose penalties for off the field conduct.

The NFL has been criticized for imposing soft punishments on players who commit crimes off of the field.  In the last few years, the NFL has attempted to alter this image by punishing players more severely through the broad powers of the commissioner.  Most notably, the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy scandals have exemplified the commissioner’s broad power to exclude players from playing for conduct done off the field, but that did not give rise to a conviction.

The Players Association has attempted to amend the agreement and strip the commissioner of the power to impose penalties for off the field conduct.  However, negotiations have yielded little results and the commissioner maintains his power.  Even if Talib is charged with a crime and given a light sentence, the commissioner could impose harsh penalties on Talib that keeps him off the field.  In the past, the commissioner has considered past legal transgressions in calculating the severity of a punishment.  If the commissioner applies this formula to Talib’s case, Talib will likely face a stiff punishment.

In 2008, Talib got into a fight with Buccaneers teammate, Cory Boyd.  In 2009, Talib was accused of battering a taxi driver.  When authorities arrested him in Florida, police added resisting arrest to his charges.  In 2011, Talib was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  In 2012, Talib was suspended for violating the league’s performance enhancing substances policy for testing positive for Adderall.  To say the least, Aqib Talib has had issues on and off the field that the NFL could factor into his punishment.

As of now, there has been no concrete evidence to dispute the facts as stated in the police report.  Talib is back in Denver and has met with medical personnel.  His recovery should be swift and he is scheduled to play this upcoming season.  Still, an investigation is under way, and given the odd facts of the incident, it would not be surprising if evidence shows that the gunshot sustained on June 5th, was self-inflicted.  If Talib shot himself, the charges could jeopardize his career if a significant sentence is given.  But even if Talib gets off with a lenient sentence, the fact is, the commissioner still retains the power to punish Talib for his off the field actions.  Given Talib’s past record, the NFL’s punishment could be harsh.

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About Johnny Hutchens, Senior Staff Writer Emeritus (19 Articles)
Johnny Hutchens is a 2017 graduate of Campbell Law School and served as a Senior Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. He is originally from Charlotte and graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. The summer following his first year, he interned as a research assistant for Professor Collins in the Legal Research and Writing department at Campbell.
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