If this is true, and it reads so, then Mr. Vick was indeed involved in dogfighting. A very sad tale.
Vick attorneys negotiating plea
Falcons QB would serve prison time if agreement reached
By D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER, BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/14/07
Michael Vick's attorneys are engaged in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors and the Falcons quarterback could reach an agreement before new dogfighting charges are handed down next week, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
The negotiations follow news that two more of Vick's three co-defendants are scheduled to enter guilty pleas later this week as part of a deal with prosecutors.
If prosecutors accept a plea agreement from Michael Vick, the Falcons QB will likely serve some prison time, according to federal sentencing guidelines.
Collins Spencer, a spokesman for Vick's lawyers, declined to comment Tuesday on any possible negotiations.
He added that Vick did not meet with his attorneys last night but said they will have a conference call with Vick this morning and may have an announcement this afternoon. Spencer did not indicate what the announcement would be.
On Monday Spencer said the legal team was "very surprised" by the pleas from Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips and said they would not affect plans to move forward toward a Nov. 26 trial.
Vick's lead attorney, Billy Martin, could not be reached for comment.
If the announcement is that Vick has reached a plea agreement, the embattled star quarterback is expected to be sentenced to some time in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines.
Vick's motivation to enter a guilty plea is likely fueled by the U.S. Attorney's Office announcement last month that it will seek a new "superseding" indictment against Vick by the end of August. With the cooperation of Vick's three co-defendants, there will likely be new, and more specific, allegations against Vick. The federal grand jury in Richmond is expected to hand up that indictment sometime early next week.
If Vick can reach an agreement by the end of this week, he would not have to answer to any additional charges.
This week, Vick learned that in the criminal justice system, friendship only goes so far.
On Monday, guilty plea hearings were scheduled for two of his co-defendants and long-time associates. Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, has a plea hearing scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Richmond at 9 a.m., while Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, has a plea hearing set for Friday at the same time. The hearings showed up Monday on U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson's docket.
The third co-defendant, Tony Taylor, 34, of Hampton pleaded guilty July 30 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against Vick. Just days earlier, Taylor had joined Vick and the others in pleading not guilty.
Attorneys for both Peace and Phillips declined to comment Monday.
"There's no telling until the actual pleas, but this doesn't sound like good news for Michael Vick," said Kent Alexander, once the U.S. attorney in Atlanta and now Emory University's general counsel. "Usually, if people plead guilty early in a case they may be cooperating with the government. That's what it sounds like here."
A federal grand jury indicted the men last month on a single count of conspiracy to cross state lines to engage in illegal gambling; to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture; and to buy, transport and receive dogs for animal fighting.
They face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines, but defendants often receive more lenient punishment when they accept responsibility and enter guilty pleas.
A 13-page statement of facts Taylor signed with prosecutors last month says Vick, Peace and Phillips set up a business called "Bad Newz Kennels" in rural Surry County, Va., to raise and train pit bulls for dogfights.
It also says the men gambled on the fights in Virginia and several other states and that Vick almost exclusively funded the dogfighting operation and gambling monies.
At various times, Taylor, Peace and Phillips executed dogs they didn't think would fight well by shooting them, the statement says. The indictment issued earlier in July said Vick also executed dogs.
The plea deals for Taylor, Peace and Phillips emerged after federal prosecutors announced at their arraignment hearing last month that they would be seeking a superseding indictment, meaning they could name additional charges and defendants in the case. That indictment is expected to be announced before the end of this month.
Vick's jury trial is scheduled for Nov. 26, deep into the Falcons' schedule. The Falcons will have played 11 of their 16 regular-season games by then. Vick will remain free until the trial, but his availability to appear on field is unclear. The NFL barred Vick, with pay, from being with the team pending the outcome of its own investigation.
A call to Vick's agent, Joel Segal, was not returned Monday. The Falcons declined to comment on the latest developments in Vick's case.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to make a decision on Vick's future in a few weeks. Goodell said he is waiting for a report from investigator Eric Holder before rendering a verdict, according to a league spokesman. No timetable has been set for Goodell's decision, NFL vice president of public relations Greg Aiello said.
Tailback Warrick Dunn, who spoke to Vick recently, said Falcons players are already of the mindset that they'll have to play without him.
"Mike is going to be missed, and he has been missed, but at the same time, you have to go on," he said.
Should Holder's report lead Goodell to determine Vick violated the NFL's player conduct policy, he could issue a suspension. Holder's report also could show that Vick did not violate the policy and that no league-ordered suspension or other discipline is warranted.
A high-ranking NFL team official said Goodell likely would meet with Vick or his legal representation before levying any suspension. Such a meeting has yet to take place.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank and president and general manager Rich McKay have said they had enough information to lead them to draw up papers to suspend Vick for four games — the maximum a team can suspend a player for disciplinary reasons. The league could suspend Vick for a year.
Blank and McKay also said there were discussions about cutting Vick.
Coach Bobby Petrino said Monday he had not been told of any developments from the NFL regarding a decision on Vick.
"I'm not aware of any recent updates on this situation," Petrino said.
"We've been proceeding as if — we have to — he's not going to be here, and we're doing the best we can at that."