Vick pleads to dogfighting charge; says he didn't make 'side bets'
RICHMOND, Va. -- Michael Vick filed his plea agreement in federal court Friday admitting to conspiracy in a dogfighting ring and agreeing that the enterprise included killing pit bulls and gambling. He denied making side bets on the fights, but admitted to bankrolling them.
As part of the plea deal, Vick agreed, if asked, to provide "full, complete and truthful cooperation" with federal prosecutors "regarding any criminal activity as requested by the government." That raises the strong possibility that prosecutors will ask Vick to tell them what he knows about dogfighting operations or other criminal activity.
Federal prosecutors are still recommending 12 to 18 months in prison for Vick, a source told ESPN.com's Kelly Naqi.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback is scheduled to formally enter his plea Monday in U.S. District Court.
The plea agreement also stipulates that if Vick violates its terms, either by failing to cooperate or by violating any law while cooperating, prosecutors are no longer bound by the deal to seek a lower sentence. In that case, Vick would also be liable to prosecution for perjury and obstruction of justice, according to the plea agreement.
From the summary of facts:
• Vick agrees "that the 'Bad Newz Kennels' business enterprise involved gambling activities in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia as set forth in the indictment."
• "Most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were provided by Vick."
• When the kennel's dogs won a fight, 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."
Killing of dogs
• "Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts of Peace, Phillips and Vick."
• "Peace, Phillips, and Vick agreed to the killing of approximately 6-8 dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions ... and all of those dogs were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning."
In the agreement, Vick agreed to plead guilty to the first count of the original two-count indictment against him -- that he was part of a conspiracy to operate a dogfighting ring across state lines. In return for the guilty plea and Vick's cooperation, the government agreed to seek a departure from the federal sentencing guidelines, though U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is not bound by any recommendation or by the sentencing guidelines.Later Friday, Vick was suspended indefinitely by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who wrote to Vick: "Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible. Your team, the NFL, and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions."
"Most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were provided by Vick," a summary of facts in the case stated, 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 stated.
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 in 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.
Both sides agreed that due to aggravating circumstances from the facts of the case -- namely, "the victimization and killing of pit bulls" -- prosecutors would go above the federal sentencing guidelines for the charge, but would recommend a sentence at the low end of the scale following that adjustment. That comes out to a range of a year to 18 months.
That language in the plea agreement for Vick is identical to language in the plea agreements that were signed by Phillips and Peace, but not by Taylor.
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 a 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.
Our position has been that we are going to try to help Judge Hudson understand all the facts and Michael's role. ... Michael's role was different than others associated with this incident.
Vick attorney Billy Martin
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.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
VICK SENTENCED TO 23 MONTHS
Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and three years' probation for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy. The suspended Falcons quarterback is looking at a scheduled release of July 2009. Story
Update• GM: Falcons will attempt to trade Vick
• Lawyer: Vick might move to halfway house
• Former Vick estate fails to sell again
• Vick house fails to sell at auction
• Vick files for bankruptcy protection
• Prosecutor: Vick's Virginia trial can wait
• Vick ordered to repay Canadian bank $2.4 million
• Judge denies NFL motion to reverse Vick ruling
• Report: Vick not playing organized football in jail
• Report: Vick passes time with prison-yard football
• Vick's state dogfighting trial to begin June 27
• Munson: Vick yet to enter drug treatment
The sentence• Vick sent to Kansas to serve rest of sentence
• Vick asked judge for leniency before sentencing
• Vick sentenced to 23 months | Document (pdf)
• Poll: What do you think? | What they're saying
• Clayton: Sentence puts career in jeopardy
• Munson: Tough sentence by displeased judge
• Teammates show support at Falcons game
• Can Vick return to playing in NFL?
• Pasquarelli: No longer top of mind in Atlanta
• Last Vick co-defendant sentenced
• Podcasts : Cossack | Schlereth | Munson/Naqi | Pasquarelli
• Chat wrap: David Cornwell
Post Plea• NFL wants court to reverse Vick bonus ruling
• Victory for Vick: QB can keep $20 million bonus
• Fifth defendant in Vick case receives probation
• Vick's house for sale for $1.1M
• Some Falcons to visit Vick in prison
• PETA unveils new e-card
• Former Virginia estate fails to sell at auction
• Out of Falcons' sight, almost out of mind
• Judge's casework offers look at possible sentence
• Remaining dogs placed with rescue groups
• Source: Feds may push judge to up sentence
• NFLPA argues Vick should not lose roster bonus
• Vick co-defendants get 18, 21 months in prison
• Vick agrees to put up almost $1M for dogs' care
• Vick given April trial date on state charges
• Vick surrenders to begin serving sentence early
• Home at center of Vick dogfighting scandal sold
• Vick fires one of his lawyers in dogfighting case
• Man who sold Vick pit bull pleads guilty
• Man connected to Vick dogfight ring pleads guilty
• Third bank sues Vick, claims he defaulted on loan
• Arbiter: Falcons have right to reclaim bonuses
• PETA: Vick had class on animal cruelty
• Evaluations show 48 of Vick's dogs placeable
• Vick tests positive for marijuana
• Vick supporters turn out for town meeting
• Vick's apology notes fetch $10.2K at auction
Vick's Plea/NFL Suspension• Vick pleads guilty to federal dogfighting charge
• The plea (PDF) | Statement of facts (PDF)
• Vick's statement: Watch it | Read it
• Roger Cossack explains plea deal
• Poll: Vick should be banned
• Va. Tech, Beamer continue to support Vick
• Vick supporters drown out protesters
• NFL suspends Vick indefinitely | Goodell (PDF)
• Chris Mortensen on Vick's suspension
• Vick files plea agreement admitting to dogfighting
Indictment• Marbury's about-face: Vick 'is 100 percent wrong'
• National NAACP: Vick 'not a victim' | Audio
• Atlanta NAACP: Vick should be allowed to return
• Falcons come to terms with 'ex-teammate'
• Vick timeline | What they're saying
• Helyar: Even Atlanta turns against Vick
• Goodell: Vick not overshadowing season
• Vick co-defendant pleads guilty to charges
• Tony Taylor: Summary of Facts | Plea agreement
• Hometown residents stand by Vick
• Falcons had planned to suspend Vick
• Commish tells Vick to avoid camp
• Vick indicted | The indictment (pdf) | Civil arrest warrant (pdf)
Town Hall meeting• Town Hall chat wrap: Chadiha
Previous columns/analysis• Munson: Q&A on Vick reporting to prison early
• Munson: Looking at Judge Hudson
• Vick's high school learning lessons
• Bryant: Confounded by race issue
• Munson: Q&A about local indictment
• Munson: Next focus for Vick is length of sentence
• Schlabach: Vick an afterthought on VT campus
• Chadiha: Vick not running from truth
• Hill: Coverage means bigger issues ignored
• Wojciechowski: Pay attention to the fallen star
• Bryant: Vick's plea deal comes with baggage
• Bryant: In failing Vick, NFLPA fails itself
• Munson: Vick plea means surrender
• Forde: Vick's epic fall
• Pasquarelli: Major blow for Falcons
• Chadiha: Lots of lessons to be learned
• Wojciechowski: Punishment with teeth
• Easterbrook: Little sympathy?
• Clayton: Vick's NFL future might be bleak
• E-Ticket: A history of mistrust
• Chadiha: Vick's bad choices