NPR logo Vick Pleads Guilty in Dogfighting Case

U.S.

Vick Pleads Guilty in Dogfighting Case

Hear NPR's Tom Goldman

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/13971393/13966238" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick pleaded guilty on Monday to a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge.

In his written plea filed in court Friday, Vick admitted he helped to kill six to eight pit bull dogs and supplied money for gambling on the fights. He said he did not personally place any bets or share in any winnings.

At Monday's hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson asked Vick, "Are you entering the plea of guilty to a conspiracy charge because you are in fact guilty?"

Vick replied, "Yes, sir."

The plea agreement calls for a sentencing range of 12 to 18 months, but U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is known for handing down tough sentences.

"You're taking your chances here. You'll have to live with whatever decision I make," Hudson said. He could impose the maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

Hudson will sentence Vick on Dec. 10.

At a news conference after the hearing, Vick apologized to the NFL commissioner, his teammates, fans, and the young people who look to him as a role model.

He said he took complete responsibility for his actions and would be thinking about how he could make himself a better person.

Article continues after sponsorship

"I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding," he said. "I take full responsibility for my actions. I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. Dogfighting is a terrible thing."

Vick was cheered by his supporters when he arrived at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Va., for the court proceedings Monday morning.

On Friday, the NFL suspended him indefinitely and without pay. Merely associating with gamblers can trigger a lifetime ban under the league's personal conduct policy.

The case began in late April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided the former Virginia Tech star's rural Surry County property and seized dozens of dogs, some injured, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.

A federal indictment issued in July charged Vick, Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach, Va.; Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Tony Taylor of Hampton, Va., 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, and Phillips and Peace soon followed.

The details outlined in the indictment and other court papers fueled a public backlash against Vick and cost him several lucrative endorsement deals, even before he agreed to plead guilty.

In announcing the suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell opened the way for the Falcons to attempt to recover $22 million of Vick's signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.

Vick's plea comes hours before the Falcons play an exhibition game at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. This will be the first chance for the team to see what effect Vick's case has on attendance at the Georgia Dome. Vick wears the biggest-selling jersey in team history and is given much credit for the team's 51 consecutive sellouts.

Vick's defense attorney, Billy Martin, has said Vick will "explain his actions" publicly, but did not say when. The "Tom Joyner Morning Show," a syndicated program based in Dallas, said it will have a live interview with Vick on Tuesday, and he will take questions from callers.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Text of Vick Apology: 'I Need to Grow Up'

Michael Vick's statement following his guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., to a dogfighting conspiracy charge:

"For most of my life, I've been a football player, not a public speaker, so, you know, I really don't know, you know, how to say what I really want to say.

You know, I understand it's — it's important or not important, you know, as far as what you say but how you say things. So, you know, I take this opportunity just to speak from the heart.

First, I want to apologize, you know, for all the things that — that I've done and that I have allowed to happen. I want to personally apologize to commissioner Goodell, Arthur Blank, coach Bobby Petrino, my Atlanta Falcons teammates, you know, for our — for our previous discussions that we had. And I was not honest and forthright in our discussions, and, you know, I was ashamed and totally disappointed in myself to say the least.

I want to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature acts and, you know, what I did was, what I did was very immature so that means I need to grow up.

I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player.

I take full responsibility for my actions. For one second will I sit right here — not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or what I've done.

I'm totally responsible, and those things just didn't have to happen. I feel like we all make mistakes. It's just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. And you know, those things, you know, just can't happen.

Dog fighting is a terrible thing, and I did reject it.

I'm upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. And I think that's the right thing to do as of right now.

Like I said, for this — for this entire situation I never pointed the finger at anybody else, I accepted responsibility for my actions of what I did and now I have to pay the consequences for it. But in a sense, I think it will help, you know, me as a person. I got a lot to think about in the next year or so.

I offer my deepest apologies to everybody out in there in the world who was affected by this whole situation. And if I'm more disappointed with myself than anything it's because of all the young people, young kids that I've let down, who look at Michael Vick as a role model. And to have to go through this and put myself in this situation, you know, I hope that every young kid out there in the world watching this interview right now who's been following the case will use me as an example to using better judgment and making better decisions.

Once again, I offer my deepest apologies to everyone. And I will redeem myself. I have to.

So I got a lot of down time, a lot of time to think about my actions and what I've done and how to make Michael Vick a better person.

Thank you."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Do Harsh Punishments Ease Gambling's Stain?

Hear NPR's Tom Goldman

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/13966287/13966238" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is expected Monday to formally enter his guilty plea to a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge.

On Friday, Vick filed his plea agreement, admitting, among other things, that he put up money for gambling on dogfights, but he said he did not bet on dogfights, or take any of the winnings.

It was not enough, however, to convince NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who swiftly suspended Vick, saying he had, indeed, violated anti-gambling terms of his contract and exposed himself to corrupting influences.

Vick's troubles follow on those of NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who allegedly bet on games in which he officiated, prompting the NBA Commissioner, David Stern, to say it was the worst such situation he had ever experienced.

Stern and Goodell are merely the latest sports commissioners to lash out at the bogeyman of illegal gambling by officials and athletes. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who became the first commissioner of organized professional baseball, banned Chicago White Sox players for throwing the 1919 World Series. And in 1989, baseball's Bart Giamatti sent gambling superstar Pete Rose into exile with a lifetime ban.

Fay Vincent was baseball's deputy commissioner when Rose was banned.

"I think their personal behavior does not impinge on the essence of the game. It doesn't change people's interest and it doesn't affect the outcome," Vincent said.

David Stern insists the Donaghy scandal is limited to "a rogue, isolated criminal." Illegal gambling within sports, however, happens more than you might think.

Rachel Newman-Baker, the NCAA director of agents, gambling and amateurism activities, said a 2003 survey on gambling in the league showed about 2 percent of college football and men's basketball players had been asked to effect the outcome of a game.

As a result of the survey, the NCAA started working closer with Las Vegas, where sports betting is legal and regulated. It is something the professional leagues have done as well, according to gambling expert R.J. Bell.

Bell said people in Las Vegas know what is going on in betting and would be the first to spot irregularities.

An even better way to root out corruption is to embrace certain kinds of sports gambling, according to Wharton School of business Professor Justin Wolfers.

His research shows most sports gambling scandals of the last century have involved athletes getting paid off to manipulate the point spread rather than purposely lose games.

"Maybe win by nine or 10 points, if the spread is 12, rather than by 13 or 14. That's a pretty compelling proposition to a sports player, who only cares about whether he wins the game, thus making him or her more corruptible," Wolfers said.

Wolfers offers this remedy: prohibit gambling on point spreads and the so-called over/under bets and legalize betting on whom wins games.

Any kind of legalization is a hard sell to sports commissioners, even though gambling experts said betting benefits sports leagues by generating interest — and, thus, more money.

But the leaders are fixed in their hard-line stance. When asked about more liberal policies toward sports betting, Fay Vincent quoted Winston Churchill. "If you keep appeasing the crocodile, the crocodile eventually will eat you," he said.