Plea agreement may not arrive until Monday

Updated: August 20, 2007, 1:52 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Still heavy into negotiations and deliberations, embattled Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick continued on Saturday to mull his options in the dogfighting case he faces in federal court, and has still not completely ruled out the possibility of proceeding to trial on Nov. 26.

Sources with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations with prosecutors, and also with the discussions within the Vick camp, said a plea agreement -- if the quarterback decides to accept one -- may not come now before Monday. One source suggested a plea might not be entered until Tuesday; however, a U.S. District Court grand jury will convene on Monday to consider additional charges against the Atlanta Falcons' star.

It is believed that, if a superseding indictment is handed down against Vick, it will include racketeering charges, which could substantially increase his potential sentence should he be convicted.

The docket of U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, who is presiding over the case, currently indicates no cases for Monday, according to a government Web site.

"At a key moment like this in anyone's life, you want as much information as possible, and that's what Michael is trying to get," said one person close to the negotiations. "This is the biggest decision he'll ever face. This isn't like, 'Well, do I pass it or run it?' His [advisors] are trying to provide him with everything they can, every bit of information, so that he can then make the most informed decision possible."

It was expected by many, including Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, that Vick would make a plea by Friday, when two more of his co-defendants, Quanis Phillips and Purnell Peace, pleaded guilty. A third co-defendant, Tony Taylor, pleaded guilty last month.

But there was no plea by Vick on Friday and he continued to meet with members of his defense team, including attorney Billy Martin, a former federal prosecutor and one-time senior official at the Department of Justice.

Sources said that, in any plea, Vick would seek to avoid additional charges in Virginia, where Gerald Poindexter, the Commonwealth's attorney for Surry County, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that he intends to pursue charges and to present evidence to the local grand jury when it convenes Sept. 25.

The state charges could add a maximum 40 years in potential jail time, if Vick were convicted.

"Not having to deal [with charges in Virginia] is a key," said a source. "It's a big part of [the negotiations]."

In addition, the Vick defense team is attempting to gain some insight into how the NFL and the Falcons will proceed if the six-year veteran pleads guilty. In that regard, they are making little or no headway, at least at the league level.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week that, if Vick strikes a plea deal, the NFL will examine the plea and react accordingly. Several sources, both from the league and from the Vick camp, said Goodell has been steadfast in not offering any indication of what degree of sanctions he might consider. Goodell told reporters this week, on a tour of training camps, that he could rule on Vick within seven to 10 days of a plea.

The league continues to have its own investigator, Eric Holder, probe the Vick case. Before the commissioner imposed any sanctions, he would likely want to meet with Vick, and such a session has not been broached yet.

Blank told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio before the Falcons' preseason game against the Bills on Friday night at Orchard Park, N.Y., that he has not spoken recently to Vick. But senior Falcons officials have been in contact in recent days, including Friday, with people close to the quarterback.

In the interview with ESPN and another with a local NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Blank used the terms "very disturbing," and "very troubling" to describe the situation.

"From a personal perspective," Blank told Paolantonio, "it's just very sad. It's distressing after six years spending time with somebody, you think you know them, and then there's another side that is shocking to all of us."

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com