Report: Feds offer plea deal starting at 18 months

Updated: August 20, 2007, 1:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

RICHMOND, Va. -- A grand jury is scheduled to convene Monday in the federal court where Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three co-defendants were indicted on dogfighting charges last month.

There's no indication whether the grand jury will take up further allegations against Vick, although federal prosecutors have said they plan to seek a superseding indictment in the case.

That would mean more charges against Vick, the lone defendant who has not been convicted now that all three of his co-defendants have reached plea deals.

Two sources told CNN on Monday that federal prosecutors have offered a plea deal recommending an 18- to 36-month prison sentence for Vick, but his attorneys are seeking to reduce it to less than a year.

As of Saturday, Vick had not completely ruled out the possibility of proceeding to trial on Nov. 26. A source with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations with prosecutors suggested a plea might not be entered until Tuesday.

"It seems to be a pretty clear indication there will be some sort of plea entered," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Friday.

Prosecutors have declined to comment outside court on negotiations with Vick's attorneys. Collins Spencer III, a spokesman for Vick's defense team, said Sunday there was nothing new to report.

"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," a person close to the negotiations told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli. "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."

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.

Vick's last two co-defendants pleaded guilty Friday and said he bankrolled gambling on dogfights at Vick's property in rural Surry County, not far from his hometown of Newport News. One said Vick helped drown or hang dogs that didn't do well.

Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach entered plea agreements and agreed to testify against Vick. Tony Taylor of Hampton struck a similar deal last month.

The gambling allegations alone could trigger a lifetime ban under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The NFL has barred Vick from the Falcons' training camp but has withheld further action while the league conducts its own investigation.

Peace, Phillips and Taylor pleaded guilty to the same charges facing Vick: conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Sentencings are set for November and December.

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.