NFL star Vick to plead to dog-fighting
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Michael Vick agreed Monday to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, a deal that leaves the Atlanta Falcons quarterback facing up to 18 months in prison and puts his NFL career in jeopardy.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Vick be sentenced to between a year and 18 months in prison, according to a government official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms have not yet been made final.
The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will have the final say on how much time Vick will ultimately spend in jail.
Vick’s plea hearing is Aug. 27.
The NFL noted in a statement that Vick’s admission wasn’t in line with what he told commissioner Roger Goodell shortly after he was initially charged.
“We totally condemn the conduct outlined in the charges, which is inconsistent with what Michael Vick previously told both our office and the Falcons,” the NFL said.
The league, which barred Vick from training camp, said it has asked the Falcons to withhold further action while the NFL’s own investigation wraps up.
Vick is charged with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. He had pleaded not guilty last month and vowed to clear his name at a November trial.
Three of Vick’s original co-defendants already have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against him if the case went to trial. Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach signed statements saying the 27-year-old quarterback participated in executing at least eight underperforming dogs by various means, including drowning and hanging.
Phillips, Peace and Tony Taylor, who pleaded guilty last month, also said Vick provided virtually all of the gambling and operating funds for his “Bad Newz Kennels” operation in rural Virginia, not far from Vick’s hometown of Newport News.
The case began April 25 when investigators conducting a drug search at a massive home Vick built in Surry County found 66 dogs, some of them injured, and items typically used in dogfighting. They included a “rape stand” that holds aggressive dogs in place for mating and a “breakstick” used to pry open a dog’s mouth.
Vick contended he knew nothing about a dogfighting operation at the home, where one of his cousins lived, and said he rarely visited. The former Virginia Tech star also blamed friends and family members for taking advantage of his generosity and pledged to be more scrupulous.
The July 17 indictment said dogs that lost fights or fared poorly in test fights were sometimes executed by hanging, electrocution or other brutal means. The grisly details fueled public protests against Vick and cost him some of his lucrative endorsement deals.