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Vick Offers 'Deepest Apologies,' Vows Redemption
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Vick Offers 'Deepest Apologies,' Vows Redemption

Law

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Michael Vick asked for forgiveness and understanding today as he took responsibility for his actions related to an illegal dogfighting ring. The star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons spoke after pleading guilty to a charge of interstate dogfighting conspiracy. The judge in the case set a sentencing date for December 10th.

With more, here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN: Michael Vick already had revealed the details of his guilty plea last Friday, admitting he helped kill dogs, admitting he bankrolled gambling on dogfights. Today was a day of yes, sir and no, sir as Vick answered questions from federal Judge Henry Hudson in a Richmond, Virginia courtroom.

After accepting the guilty plea, Hudson said to Vick, you're taking your chances here. You'll have to live with whatever decision I make. Prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence of between one and one a half years. Hudson doesn't have to take the recommendation and he could impose the maximum five years, or he could go shorter if Vick provides information on other cases. Judge Hudson reportedly will set aside half a day for Vick's sentencing, giving defense attorney Billy Martin a chance to argue for leniency.

Today, Martin spoke after Vick's guilty plea.

Mr. BILLY MARTIN (Michael Vick's Defense Attorney): We hope that Judge Hudson will see the real Mike Vick. What you've seen is something of an aberration. And we think Judge Hudson will get it right when he sentences Mr. Vick on December 10th.

GOLDMAN: In fact, very few people have been able to see Mike Vick at all since the case began. But he finally emerged today to make his first public statement. As camera shutters clattered away, Vick walked to a lectern in a Richmond hotel and spoke for several minutes. He talked without notes and, in his words, from the heart.

Mr. MICHAEL VICK (Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons): I feel like we all make mistakes. It's just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions. Those things just can't happen. Dogfighting is a terrible thing, and I did reject it.

GOLDMAN: Vick apologized to his Atlanta teammates, to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and to Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner who suspended Vick without pay last Friday. He said he was particularly disappointed in himself because of all the children he's let down.

Mr. VICK: 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.

GOLDMAN: Vick didn't take any questions from reporters. Later in the day, Falcons officials spoke to media members. Arthur Blank said Vick was not being cut from the team - at least not now - but he said the Falcons need to start moving on from the case that has tarnished, in his words, our team and our brand.

Mr. ARTHUR BLANK (Team Owner, Atlanta Falcons): And we will recover from this. We spent the last five years building goodwill and strong, loyal relationships within this community. We'd also be ashamed to have this incident overshadow the high-quality, high-character players that are on our football team.

GOLDMAN: On a practical level, Falcons' general manager Rich McKay confirmed the team would try to recoup money from Vick, an estimated $22 million in bonus payments that the Falcons could use for other players.

Mr. RICH McKAY (General Manager, Atlanta Falcons): We don't do this in some way that is spiteful, at all. We do this in a way that we think is in the best interest of our football team, our franchise, our fans.

GOLDMAN: Team officials will start to get a sense of the fallout tonight, when the Falcons play their first home game at the NFL preseason. In the meantime, Michael Vick begins an exile of undetermined length. I will redeem myself, he promised today, I have to.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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