Judge says Vick must appear

Updated: February 27, 2009, 5:47 PM ET
Associated Press

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- The judge presiding over Michael Vick's bankruptcy case insisted Friday that the suspended NFL star testify at a hearing in April, even if his attorneys have to get a court order to bring him from a federal prison in Kansas.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Santoro said he will refuse to approve Vick's Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan if the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback fails to show.

"He is the debtor and he has to testify," Santoro said. "The court must be able to assess his credibility, his demeanor, his good faith."

Vick's bankruptcy proceedings have gone on largely without him as he serves a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth, Kan., for bankrolling a dogfighting operation. He is scheduled to be released from federal custody July 20.

Maybe he will, maybe he won't.

-- U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Santoro, referring to the likelihood of Michael Vick playing in the NFL again.

A government official told The Associated Press this week that Vick has been approved for home confinement as early as May 21 because there isn't enough room at a halfway house. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Santoro mentioned the AP report before demanding Vick's appearance at the April 2 plan confirmation hearing.

One of Vick's bankruptcy attorneys, Michael Blumenthal, called the report "hearsay" and said he still expects Vick to be moved soon to a halfway house. He did not explain a reason for that belief, and he and co-counsel Paul Campsen declined to comment further after the hearing.

Santoro made it clear he expects Vick to appear regardless of where he is being held.

"I'll leave how he gets here to you," the judge said, adding it would be Vick's attorneys' responsibility to secure a court order to temporarily move him from Leavenworth if necessary.

Santoro also approved Vick's revised disclosure statement, a thick and complicated document that describes Vick's vast holdings and how they will be handled in the bankruptcy plan, after twice rejecting it. Crucial to that plan is a hope that Vick will return to professional football.

Santoro also approved Vick's revised disclosure statement, a thick and complicated document that describes Vick's vast holdings and how they will be handled in the bankruptcy plan, after twice rejecting it.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended Vick without pay, has said he will review Vick's status after legal proceedings are completed.

The judge said the statement, while imperfect, provides adequate information to allow creditors to determine whether to vote for or against Vick's bankruptcy plan. Failure of the plan would result in liquidation of Vick's assets.

Vick claims his plan is better for creditors, in part because a portion of his future income would be used to pay them. The plan calls for Vick to keep the first $750,000 of his annual salary, with creditors getting one-fifth to one-third of any income after that.

Allowing Vick to pocket the first $750,000 is intended "to incentivize Mr. Vick to re-engage in professional football," according to the disclosure statement.

One of Vick's biggest creditors, Joel Enterprises Inc., objected to the disclosure statement in part because it does not assess the likelihood that he will successfully resume his career.

Ross Reeves, an attorney for a committee representing most of Vick's other creditors, did not object to the disclosure statement but said he is troubled by the question of whether Vick will play football again.

"Maybe he will, maybe he won't," Santoro said. "We all understand that."

In response to stern questioning from Santoro, Joel Enterprises attorney Linda Najjoum conceded that her client would vote against Vick's plan regardless of what additional information was added to the disclosure statement. Joel Enterprises, owned by Vick's former agent, obtained a $4.6 million judgment against Vick last April.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE