Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case

Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case

Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case
ESPN.com news services

RICHMOND, Va. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick accepted a plea deal Monday and likely lengthy prison sentence to avoid additional federal charges in a dogfighting case that has driven his NFL career to a halt.

"After consulting with his family over the weekend, Michael Vick has asked that I announce today that he has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors regarding charges pending against him," Vick attorney Billy Martin said in a statement.

"Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made. Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter.

The terms of Vick's sentence are not yet known.

All three of Vick's co-defendants have reached plea deals in the case. Vick had been facing a Nov. 26 trial date.

Vick's last two co-defendants pleaded guilty Friday and said he bankrolled gambling on dogfights at the quarterback's property in rural Surry County, not far from his hometown of Newport News. One said Vick helped drown or hang dogs that didn't do well.

Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach entered plea agreements and agreed to testify against Vick. Tony Taylor of Hampton struck a similar deal last month.

The gambling allegations alone could trigger a lifetime ban under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The NFL has barred Vick from the Falcons' training camp but has withheld further action while the league conducts its own investigation.

Peace, Phillips and Taylor pleaded guilty to the same charges facing Vick: conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Their sentencings are set for November and December.

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Re: Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case

That's it for Vick's NFL career
FOXSports.com

Michael Vick's NFL career is over.

By accepting a guilty plea today on those gruesome federal dog-fighting charges, Vick won't escape prison and he could be sentenced to more than a year when he appears before U.S. Judge Henry Hudson next Monday morning.

No details of the plea agreement have been made public, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has no choice but to indefinitely suspend Vick.

Vick's next big headache depends on how much he admits to being involved in gambling on dog-fighting, how heavily he was betting and what, if any, involvement there was from known gamblers. The NFL has historically come down very hard on players with ties to gambling (look no further than legends like Paul Hornung and Alex Karras). And Goodell is very concerned about the gambling aspects, especially in light of the recent NBA referee case.

The NFL doesn't like to acknowledge how many millions are bet every weekend on its games, but it does want fans to believe that the games are above scrutiny and the mere hint of a fix could potentially jeopardize the league's popularity.

Goodell could possibly suspend Vick for one season for dog-fighting and then another season for gambling. And these suspensions will come after Vick serves his prison sentence. If Vick spends this season in jail, it means Vick could be suspended for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. If he gets 18 months, he may be suspended through the 2010 season.

After that, what would motivate the NFL to allow him to play again? Even if Vick attempts to rehabilitate his image through an unprecedented amount of community service and charitable giving, how many owners would want to risk signing him after this? Besides, by 2010 Vick will be 30 and more than a little rusty.

Last week Vick attempted to get Goodell to agree to piggyback any possible suspension with potential prison time. Goodell was unwilling to commit to that course of action.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted to suspend Vick when the indictment was handed down, but in order to recover any signing bonus money, the team needs Goodell to suspend Vick. Blank definitely feels betrayed by Vick, but another huge problem facing him is how will his fan base — 52 percent of his season ticket holders are African-American — react to the permanent loss of Vick, one of the league's most popular players. Some of Vick's fans in Atlanta actually believe that Vick was unfairly targeted by the Justice Department in this case.

But Vick dug his own hole here. Based on his plea, he lied to Goodell around the time of the draft when he said he was innocent of these charges. According to what his co-defendants said last Friday, Vick was killing dogs in April just prior to the draft.

And now it's likely all over for Michael Vick.

Since he entered the league in 2001, Vick has received more than $60 million in salary and endorsements. It's nothing short of ludicrous that he threw away such a career and earning power by being involved in an illegal dogfighting betting ring.

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Re: Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case

Report: Vick won't admit to gambling or killing dogs

(Sports Network) - According to a report, Michael Vick will not admit to gambling or killing dogs when he enters a guilty plea this upcoming Monday to charges stemming from a dogfighting ring he allegedly set up and funded in Virginia.

According to ESPN, a source close to the case said the Falcons quarterback "will not admit to killing dogs or gambling on dog fights, as detailed in his indictment."

The report also states that Vick "will admit that he was present when dogs were killed, but will maintain that he did not personally kill any of the dogs."

On Monday, Vick's attorney, Bill Martin, released a statement to announce that his client had accepted a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, who were reportedly working on additional charges against the embattled Atlanta Falcons quarterback.

Vick was charged with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and sponsoring a dog in an animal-fighting venture. He is expected to enter his guilty plea this upcoming Monday in U.S. District Court in Virginia.

The charges against Vick are punishable by a prison sentence of five years and a fine of $250,000. The plea bargain will likely cut Vick's jail time.

Vick's NFL career is also now in jeopardy. He initially told the league he was innocent of the charges.

Vick was told by the NFL not to attend Falcons training camp following the indictment in July. The Falcons had decided to suspend Vick before commissioner Roger Goodell asked them not to take action until the league completed its own review of the situation.

Vick's three co-defendants in the case each negotiated plea bargains recently, the last two just this past Friday.

Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips both pleaded guilty last Friday in U.S. District court, while Tony Taylor was the first to plead guilty, doing so on July 30.

The charges in the case stem from an operation allegedly conducted at a house owned by Vick in Smithfield, Virginia.

According to the July 17 indictment, the defendants were involved in an ongoing animal fighting business based out of Vick's property from early 2001 through sometime in April of this year.

Since Vick purchased the property in June 2001, the defendants formed a dog fighting enterprise known as "Bad Newz Kennels" and used the property for housing and training pit bulls used in dog fights. From at least 2002, the defendants and others sponsored dog fights on the property and brought dogs from several states to participate in the events.

During the fights, the participants would place bets ranging from the hundreds to thousands of dollars. The fights would last until either the death or surrender of the losing dog, which would then sometimes be put to death by drowning, hanging, gunshot, electrocution or other methods.

Also, the indictment said the defendants participated in dog fights in North and South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and elsewhere in Virginia.

The dog fighting affair was first brought to light when Vick's home was raided on April 26 when authorities seized 54 dogs, along with several other pieces of equipment associated in dogfighting.

The property was again searched on June 7 by federal officials, who uncovered the graves of several pit bulls on the property.

Vick denied any involvement in dogfighting conducted on his property when the case first broke, and initially blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity.

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Re: Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case

Vick files plea admitting to dogfighting
Associated Press

Michael Vick filed his plea agreement in federal court Friday admitting to conspiracy in a dogfighting ring and helping kill pit bulls. He denied ever betting on the fights, only bankrolling them.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback is scheduled to formally enter his plea Monday in U.S. District Court. He signed the plea agreement Thursday.

"Most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were provided by Vick," a summary of facts in the case said, echoing language in plea agreements by three co-defendants who previously pleaded guilty.

The statement said that when the kennel's dogs won, the gambling proceeds were generally shared by Vick's three co-defendants - Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.

"Vick did not gamble by placing side bets on any of the fights. Vick did not receive any of the proceeds of the purses that were won by Bad Newz Kennels," the summary said.

According to the statement, Vick also was involved with the others in killing six to eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions last April. The dogs were executed by drowning or hanging.

"Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts" of Vick and two of the co-defendants, Phillips and Peace, the statement said.

In the plea agreement, the government committed to recommending a sentence on the low end of the federal sentencing guideline range of a year to 18 months. However, the conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, and the judge is not bound by any recommendation or by the sentencing guidelines.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who will accept Vick's plea, has a reputation for imposing stiff sentences, according to lawyers who have appeared in his court. Vick will not be sentenced for several months.

"Our position has been that we are going to try to help Judge Hudson understand all the facts and Michael's role," Vick's lead defense attorney, Billy Martin, said in telephone interview. "Michael's role was different than others associated with this incident."

Martin said Vick will "speak to the public and explain his actions," but he declined to say whether that will occur in court or in a news conference after Monday's hearing.

The U.S. attorney's office, which has declined to comment on the case, said it would issue a statement after the hearing.

The case began in April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided the former Virginia Tech star's Surry County property and found dozens of dogs, some injured, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.

A federal indictment issued in July charged Vick, Peace, Phillips and Taylor with an interstate dogfighting conspiracy. Vick initially denied any involvement, and all four men pleaded innocent.

Taylor was the first to change his plea to guilty, saying Vick financed the dogfighting ring's gambling and operations. Peace and Phillips soon followed, disclosing that Vick joined them in killing dogs that did not perform well in test fights.

The sickening details outlined in the indictment and other court papers prompted a public backlash against Vick, who had been one of the NFL's most popular players.

Vick was barred from the Falcons training camp, but neither the NFL nor the team have taken further action.

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Re: Vick agrees to plead guilty in dogfighting case

Goodell tells Vick his conduct was 'cruel and reprehensible'
August 24, 2007

Text of excerpts of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's letter to Michael Vick. Vick was suspended indefinitely without pay from the NFL on Friday:

Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible. Your team, the NFL, and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions.

Your plea agreement and the plea agreements of your co-defendants also demonstrate your significant involvement in illegal gambling. Even if you personally did not place bets, as you contend, your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL Player Contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player.

You have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL and have violated the league's Personal Conduct Policy.

I will review the status of your suspension following the conclusion of the legal proceedings. As part of that review, I will take into account a number of factors, including the resolution of any other charges that may be brought against you, whether in Surry County, Virginia, or other jurisdictions, your conduct going forward, the specifics of the sentence imposed by Judge Hudson and any related findings he might make, and the extent to which you are truthful and cooperative with law enforcement and league staff who are investigating these matters.

I have advised the Falcons that, with my decision today, they are no longer prohibited from acting and are now free to assert any claims or remedies available to them under the Collective Bargaining Agreement or your NFL Player Contract.

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Vick caught in game of semantics
FOXSports.com

OK, the big revelation Friday in Michael Vick's plea agreement is that he admitted that he simply bankrolled the dogfighting gambling ring that he and three friends operated, but that he never took any prize money.

Is that splitting hairs, a legal technicality simply designed to lesson whatever future NFL suspension he may receive after his jail term? Or, is it that the federal prosecutors merely couldn't prove a satisfactory money trail to Vick that he ever collected, say a $5,000 bet, when one of his dogs won? More importantly, does it matter?

The bottom line is that this dogfighting ring wouldn't have existed without Vick and his checkbook. He bought the house on Moonlight Road, the dogs and this entire enterprise was a way for him to financially take care of some of his friends, including one who served time for selling drugs. What's the difference between bankrolling an illegal dogfighting ring and bankrolling an after-hours casino at your house?

By indefinitely suspending Vick on Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to be viewing Vick's claims that he didn't profit from any of the dog fights as mere semantics. Goodell said "even if you did not place bets, as you contend, your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL Player Contract and expose you to corrupting influences... one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."

Vick did hire excellent lawyers and these issues — that he never personally applied the electrical cable when a dog was killed or that he never won a few measly dollars — may be important in reducing his jail time. Believe me, that is Vick's concern at the moment.

Once Vick is sentenced and serves whatever time the judge hands down, Goodell will decide whether to make Vick's suspension permanent. Initially, the opinion was Goodell would give Vick a two-year suspension — one for his reprehensible actions involving dogfighting and one for gambling — once he serves his jail term.

During this entire episode, a case that by federal standards was amazing in how quickly it was prosecuted and concluded, I have wavered on Vick's future. My last thoughts were that he will never play in the NFL again. Some of my colleagues have pointed out that in America, you are entitled to a second chance and that Vick should be allowed to earn a fair living.

I'm for him earning a living; I just don't believe it entitles him to earn a living in the NFL. Isn't it time to put a stop to some of this criminal and nauseating behavior by sports stars? Isn't the game bigger than one left-handed quarterback? Also, there must be more to Vick the man than simply being a football player. He must have other talents and interests.

I say this because there are too many fans that simply don't want to see Vick playing and then be forced to watch while other fans cheer his every move. It's a little too much hero worship for me.

Should Goodell impose a lifetime ban, Vick can challenge the league in court and see what owners and coaches will join the quarterback's fight against such a suspension.

And don't you love all these coaches saying what a hard worker Vick was, what a great guy he was before they couch their statement in how upset they are about the allegations?

I wrote last month that Vick's big money — $29.5 million — in his last contract was in the form of roster bonuses. It's going to be tough to get that money back because he fulfilled the obligations of those clauses by being on the roster in 2004, 2005 and 2006 when the bulk of that money was paid.

I simply can't feel sorry for Vick.

When examining his first contract, when he was the first player selected in the 2001 draft, Vick was paid $17.9 million during his first three seasons. On his next contract, signed in 2004, he earned another $48.5 million through last season for a grand total of $66.4 million paid by the Falcons since he entered the league. That amount doesn't account for whatever endorsement and appearance deals he received because of his NFL status.

You and I and most other people should be able to live happily on that without playing or watching another down of football.

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