RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Michael Vick agreed Monday to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, a deal that leaves the Atlanta Falcons quarterback facing up to 18 months in prison and puts his NFL career in jeopardy.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Vick be sentenced to between a year and 18 months in prison, according to a government official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms have not yet been made final. That would be a higher penalty than is usually recommended for first-time convicts. It reflects an attempt by the government to show that animal abusers will receive more than a slap on the wrist for their crimes.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will have the final say on how much time Vick will ultimately spend in jail. Vick's plea hearing is next Monday in Richmond, Virginia. Defense attorney Billy Martin said Vick reached an agreement with federal prosecutors after consulting with his family during the weekend.
The NFL noted in a statement that Vick's admission wasn't in line with what he told commissioner Roger Goodell shortly after he was initially charged. The league issued a statement saying it condemns the conduct outlined in the charges. The Falcons said they were "certainly troubled" by news of the plea but would withhold further comment in compliance with Goodell's request.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - The Atlanta Falcons knew this day was coming. But it still hurt to get the news officially.
Michael Vick's lawyers say the star quarterback will plead guilty to federal dogfighting charges. And the Falcons may need years to recover from the loss of their franchise player. In agreeing to a plea deal, Vick raised serious doubts about whether he will ever play again in the NFL.
His career with the Falcons is almost certainly over. Owner Arthur Blank vowed last week to "move very decisively" when he learned the extent of Vick's involvement in a gruesome dogfight ring that was discovered behind a home he owns in rural Virginia. Those facts should come out at the plea hearing, scheduled for Monday in Richmond, Virginia.
In the meantime, the Falcons imposed a media blackout after Vick's plea deal. They said they were asked not to comment at the request of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Blank attended a morning practice but slipped away from the Falcons complex in a black van at about the same time news of Vick's guilty plea was breaking in Virginia. His driver stopped briefly when flagged down by two reporters, but said the owner would not speak.