Vick's lawyers request mediator to help in appeasing creditors
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Lawyers for Michael Vick asked a federal bankruptcy judge on Friday to appoint a mediator to help settle his debts to creditors, saying a third party might expedite a resolution in the case.
Vick, once the highest-paid player in the National Football League, listened in silently by telephone from the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., where he is serving a 23-month sentence for a dogfighting conviction last summer that magnified his financial troubles.
The mediation proposal came near the end of a 90-minute pretrial conference to discuss Assistant U.S. Trustee Kenneth N. Whitehurst III's motion asking for a trustee to take control of Vick's assets as the bankruptcy case proceeds.
Vick's attorneys argued against appointing a trustee, saying that liquidating the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback's assets could hinder his ability to get back in the NFL when he is released from prison next summer.
The assets that could be liquidated include four houses, other real estate holdings and cash, as well as future earnings if he is able to resume his football career.
Whitehurst argued that basing a settlement plan on potential future earnings was flawed.
"There are 110 unknowns on that front," he said, noting that even if Vick does resume his career, the tolls of age and being off the field for several years could be significant.
Vick attorney Paul Campsen said he had provided representatives of Vick's creditors with a proposed resolution, and the creditors countered with a proposal that was structurally similar, giving him hope for an agreement. The amount of the proposed resolution was not disclosed Friday.
Judge Frank Santoro told John McIntyre, representing the committee that includes numerous creditors, to see if mediation would be acceptable to them and then report back to the court.
With a go-ahead, Campsen said, he would file a motion seeking mediation by Monday.
"It ought to be a team effort where we're going forward with the same goal," Campsen said, echoing the judge's assertion that everyone in the courtroom was there for the same reason: to allow Vick to pay his debts, reorganize his finances and move forward.
Whitehurst argued that Vick's lawyers have had ample time to provide an accounting of his assets, while Vick's side contended that it has taken months using forensic accountants to identify his assets, liabilities and the money he gave to others.
That amounts to $18 million in just the past two years, his lawyers said, and includes money they contend was taken from Vick without his consent by unscrupulous advisers.
"It's a long process," said Peter Ginsberg, another of Vick's lawyers. "There were a lot of people with his or her hands in the till."
"We have identified substantially all of the transfers that have occurred over the last two years," said Michael Blumenthal, one of three lawyers for Vick at the hearing.
Blumenthal disputed Whitehurst's assertion that the case is straightforward, saying it is "unusual in light of the fact that we don't have a client in our office on a daily basis."
Santoro rebuked Vick's lawyers for not yet figuring out Vick's finances and said it is unreasonable to expect that it will take much longer.
"If you do not fix that problem, I will," he said.
The judge ordered Vick's lawyers to finish their work by Oct. 24 and the next hearing will be held Nov. 13 in Norfolk.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press