Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for this article.
Vick begins prison sentence early
Judge signs order allowing suspended QB to enter jail
By BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/19/07
Hoping to convince a judge that his contrition is real, Michael Vick checked himself into jail on Monday – three weeks before he is to be sentenced for his infamous dogfighting operation.
The suspended Falcons quarterback turned himself into the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Richmond, even though his sentencing in federal court is scheduled for Dec. 10.
Earlier this year, Vick was the face of the Falcons’ franchise and one of the NFL’s most exciting players. Today, he is sitting behind bars and awaiting sentencing at the Northern Neck Regional Jail, a 460-bed facility about 55 miles northeast of Richmond. The jail has a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to hold federal inmates awaiting sentencing.
In a statement, Billy Martin, one of Vick’s defense attorneys, said his client’s decision to begin serving his time was voluntary.
“From the beginning, Mr. Vick has accepted responsibility for his actions and his self surrender further demonstrates that acceptance,” Martin said. “Michael wants to again apologize to everyone [who] has been hurt in this matter and he thanks all of the people who have offered him and his family prayers and support during this time.”
Through a spokesman, the Atlanta Falcons declined comment.
By turning himself in earlier than necessary, Vick hopes U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson will take notice and not sentence him too harshly, lawyers who have followed the case said Monday.
In August, Vick pleaded guilty for his role in a dogfighting operation known as Bad Newz Kennels at his former property in Surry County, Va. Vick acknowledged financing the operation beginning in 2001 through this past spring. He also admitted the operation involved the “victimization and killing of pit bull dogs.”
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Vick faces between 12 and 18 months in prison, although Hudson, who has a reputation for being a tough sentencing judge when circumstances warrant it, could impose a sentence above that range if he sees fit.
A U.S. probation officer also is investigating the case and will make his or her recommendations to Hudson as to Vick’s sentence. The officer could recommend Vick’s sentence be enhanced by finding, for example, Vick played a leadership role in the dogfighting operation.
“Vick has got to be worried,” said Steve Benjamin, a Richmond criminal defense attorney. “His concern has got to be what Judge Hudson is going to do. One area of concern is the judge’s views on the barbarities of dogfighting.”
By turning himself in early, Benjamin said, Vick is trying to convince Hudson he is sincere in accepting responsibility.
“The most difficult task for any criminal defendant is demonstrating his sincerity,” Benjamin said. “He’s now starting to serve his time, rather than postponing it. He’s going to miss Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Vick likely tried to get Hudson’s attention by taking the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ eight-hour class in empathy and animal protection at the group’s Norfolk headquarters in September. But it didn’t help when he failed a drug test, also in September, while free on bond, Benjamin said.
Atlanta lawyer Jerry Froelich, who has also followed the case, said Vick could have made an even bigger impression on Hudson if he began serving his time right after he pleaded guilty in August.
“The sooner he gets in, the better it is for him if he wants to play football again,” Froelich said. “He should have gone into custody right away.”
Hudson cleared the way for Vick to enter custody in an order signed early Monday. Vick’s reason for reporting early was “based solely on his desire to begin his period of incarceration prior to his sentencing and not because of a violation of any condition of his bond,” Hudson wrote.