Vick admits dogfighting in federal plea
Vail, CO Colorado
RICHMOND, Va. ” 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.
Associated Press Writers Matthew Barakat in McLean, Va., and Michael Felberbaum in Richmond contributed to this report.