ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
A lawyer for Michael Vick says the star quarterback will plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. Vick, who plays for the Atlanta Falcons, was indicted last month, and he said at outset that he was innocent. But three of his codefendants reached plea deals. And today, Vick's lawyer said he has too.
NPR's Tom Goldman is following this story and joins us now. And Tom, tell us more about today's statement from Michael Vick's lawyer.
TOM GOLDMAN: Yes. As you mentioned, it was his lead attorney, Billy Martin, who made the statement. Before I read you the statement, the interesting part was the first line, which said that Vick reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last Friday but was announcing it today. Now there was speculation that he'd been wrangling with his attorneys all weekend on whether or not to agree to plead guilty. It appeared he agreed to it last week.
So anyway, the statement from Billy Martin reads: After consulting with his family over the weekend, Michael Vick asked that I announce today that he has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors regarding the charges pending against him. Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made. Michael Vick wishes to apologize to everyone who has been hurt by this matter. The legal team and Mr. Vick will appear in court in Richmond on August 27th, that's next Monday. Now, Robert, details of the plea agreement won't be made public until after that hearing next Monday.
SIEGEL: Big question is, is Michael Vick going to prison?
GOLDMAN: It appears that way. Prosecutors have been talking about 12 to 18 months, the maximum penalty for the charges he is now going to plead guilty to or five years. But it's - so we will have to find out. The judge will not sentence next Monday. He'll accept the guilty plea and ask Mike Vick some questions, then he will decide a date for sentencing and then the U.S. attorney, the prosecutor, will prepare recommendations for the length of sentence for the judge to consider.
SIEGEL: Now, Vick is a marquee player in professional football. What's the news or what's the reaction today to the news from the National Football League?
GOLDMAN: The statement from the NFL reads as follows. We are aware of Michael Vick's decision to enter a guilty plea to the federal charges against him and accept responsibility for his conduct. We totally condemn the conduct outlined in the charges, which is inconsistent with what Michael Vick previously told both our office and the Falcons. We will conclude our own review under the league's personal conduct policy as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have asked the Falcons to continue to refrain from taking action, pending a decision by the commissioner.
So now, the speculation is what will Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, do? It's believed that the likely course of action will be an indefinite suspension, and then let Michael Vick serve his time, then make a decision on whether there should be a further suspension such as a lifetime ban.
SIEGEL: Well, judging from what his codefendants pleaded to, we're talking about running a dogfighting operation, in some cases, then, hanging and even shooting dogs, either after their fighting days were over. I believe gambling as well was involved with the dogfighting. It sounds as if, if Michael Vick is about to plead guilty to conspiring to do this, that his playing days are over in the National Football League.
GOLDMAN: One would think so. And you mentioned some pretty heinous things there. Of course, the public reacts most to the these horrible charges of shooting and drowning and electrocuting dogs that didn't perform well. But as you know, the big problem in professional sports is gambling. There have been players who have been kept out of - for their entire careers for associations with gambling. And Mike Vick certainly, according to his codefendants who pleaded guilty last week, said in a statement that Mike Vick was the man behind this operation. He financed it, he put the money up for gambling. And so those are some pretty serious charges.
SIEGEL: The next chapter in this story comes on August 27th, you say?
GOLDMAN: Yes. August 27th is when, in Richmond, Virginia, he will go before Judge Henry Hudson, who is known to be a tough sentencer, and he will make a guilty plea, and then we will find out exactly what the judge will do as far as deciding how long Michael Vick should be in prison.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tom Goldman.
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