NFL Superstar Michael Vick Enters Guilty Plea In Dogfighting Case
As many people who get into legal trouble do, NFL superstar Michael Vick says he has found Jesus. Who knew he was lost?
Snide remarks aside, Atlanta Falcons football player Michael Vick pled guilty this week in federal court to a conspiracy charge for his role in a dogfighting ring and will face between one and five years in prison.
An investigation into the dogfighting ring broke wide open earlier this year when, on April 25th, police searched a home in Virginia that is owned by Vick and found 65 dogs and dogfighting paraphernalia. Some of the dogs at the house were injured, apparently from recent fights. Among the items found at the home were a “rape stand”, which is a device usually used to hold down aggressive dogs for breeding and “breaksticks” used to pry open a dogs mouth.
Authorities have not said what will happen to the dogs when the case is concluded, but the Humane Society has stated that generally fewer than 10 percent of the animals used in dogfighting rings can be rehabilitated and placed in homes. The others will likely have to be destroyed because they have been conditioned to be aggressive fighters and are not suitable as pets.
Michael Vick initially denied any involvement in the dogfighting ring. The house he owned was occupied by his cousin and Vick, in an effort to protect himself and his football career in the NFL, initially seemed happy to let others take responsibility for the criminal dogfighting ring. He blamed friends and family members for taking advantage of his generosity and said he vowed to not let it happen anymore.
When it became obvious that others involved in the dogfighting ring would be willing to testify against Vick and that other charges were likely to be filed, he wisely changed his story. He has said that he wants to take full responsibility and redeem himself.
Vick decided to have his criminal defense attorneys work out a plea deal with prosecutors in the case.
On August 27th, Vick appeared in federal court to enter a guilty plea to the conspiracy charge against him. He will be sentenced on December 10th, and it has been reported that prosecutors are recommending that he spend 12 to 18 months behind bars for his involvement in the dogfighting ring.
The sentence that Vick receives will likely depend greatly on his cooperation in the continuing investigation. He will be expected to assist in the investigation in any way that he can, including naming names and dates of alleged dogfighting incidents.
The length of the sentence will determine in what facility Vick will be confined. If the judge sees full cooperation from Vick and believes that he is truly remorseful about his criminal behavior and gives him a light jail sentence, he will likely do his time in a low security facility. If Vick receives a harsher sentence, closer to the maximum of five years, he will probably do his time in a higher security prison.
In federal court on August 27th, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson spoke harshly to Vick and asked him if he fully understood the consequences of his guilty plea. The judge told Vick that once he entered his guilty plea that basically anything could happen at sentencing; that just because he was pleading guilty to the conspiracy charge did not mean that it was not possible for him to be sentenced to the full five years in prison. The judge emphasized that once a guilty plea is entered it can not be changed. Vick said that he understood all of this and still chose to enter a guilty plea.
After Vick appeared before the judge in court, he held a press conference in which he apologized for his actions and specifically to the NFL commissioner, his teammates and Atlanta Falcons owners and coaches. He also apologized to all the children who look up to him as a role model and said that his actions were immature and that it is time for him to grow up. He vowed to redeem himself and referenced his new found commitment to religion during his statement.
The NFL has suspended Vick indefinitely; however, the Atlanta Falcons said that they would not immediately drop Vick. They will, however, require him to repay a reported $22 million in bonuses that he has received.
So Michael Vick has until December 10th to prove to prosecutors and to the court that he is truly remorseful and will do everything that he can to make up for his criminal acts any way that he can. The judge is likely to review Vick’s actions between now and then before making a decision about how Vick is sentenced.