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In August, Michael Vick apologized to "all the young kids out there for my immature acts" after he agreed to plead guilty for his involvement in a dogfighting ring.
In August, Michael Vick apologized to "all the young kids out there for my immature acts" after he agreed to plead guilty for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
A federal judge in Virginia on Monday sentenced suspended NFL football quarterback Michael Vick to 23 months in prison and three years probation for his role in operating a dogfighting ring called Bad Newz Kennels.
In a federal courtroom, wearing a black and white jumpsuit, Vick apologized to the court and to his family. Judge Henry Hudson responded, "You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you."
A subdued Vick answered, "Yes, sir."
The judge then read Vick's sentence. The judge said Vick lied about killing dogs and about using marijuana, and he said he was not convinced that Vick had taken full responsibility for his actions.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said the sentence is tougher than expected.
"It seems fair but it's quite strict," Tobias said. He said he thought the judge gave Vick 23 months because he was central to the operation and the last to plead.
After the sentencing, Vick's attorney Billy Martin said Vick knows the punishment is a direct result of his conduct.
"Michael does accept that. As you can imagine, Michael is very disappointed. He's saddened, but Michael will take advantage of this as a learning experience," Martin said.
Fallen a Long Way
The suspended Atlanta Falcon has fallen a long way from his position as star quarterback. He signed a contract for $130 million in 2004. But last June, he and three others were indicted for conspiracy in connection with the dogfighting ring.
After first denying the charges, Vick pleaded guilty in August to financing the operation and killing some dogs. But Vick said he was not involved in gambling on the dogfights.
He was suspended indefinitely from the NFL without pay in August.
In a written statement, Falcon's owner Arthur Blank called the sentencing "another step in Vick's legal journey" and "a difficult day for Michael's family and for a lot of us, including many of our players and fans who have been emotionally invested in Michael over the years."
Vick turned himself in last month to begin serving his sentence early, but that doesn't appear to have had much effect on the judge.
Two of Vick's co-defendants were sentenced in November to 18 months and 21 months. U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said in a statement that the investigation "exposed a seamy side" of society.
Tobias said the government prosecutors were serious.
"In part, this prosecution was pursued in order to send a message that dogfighting is not going to be tolerated in the federal system," Tobias said. "I think that message was sent because of Michael Vick's status as a national figure."
Vick has also been indicted on state dogfighting charges in Virginia and faces a trial in April.
The sentencing comes on the same day that the Falcons play the New Orleans Saints. Without their star, the team's record is 3-9 this year.