Source says 'good chance he will plead guilty'
By JEREMY REDMON, BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/15/07
Richmond, Va. â€” Facing the possibility of a new indictment, which includes racketeering charges, Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will most likely join his three co-defendants and agree this week to a plea deal with prosecutors in his federal dogfighting case, according to two people with knowledge of the case.
Vick has not made a final decision, according to the two people with the knowledge of the case, because he wants to hear from the NFL what a guilty plea would do to his football career.
"It is a very good chance he will plead guilty," said one of the people who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He definitely wants to play football again. His love is for football. And he would love to play for the Falcons again. But first and foremost is to get back on the field."
Vick's attorneys were still consulting with him about the deal Wednesday morning, one of the people said.
If Vick accepts the deal before the end of the week, a court hearing could be scheduled for him to enter a guilty plea as early as next week. Vick, who has been banned from Falcons training camp while the NFL investigates the charges, has said he wants to play for the Falcons again.
Federal prosecutors announced at Vick's arraignment last month they will be seeking a superseding indictment before the end of this month. And that indictment includes at least one additional charge under the federal "RICO" statute, both people said. RICO, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization, targets organized crime and racketeering as well as enterprises affecting interstate commerce.
The prosecutors have given Vick until Friday to decide whether to take a plea deal, the details of which have not been made public. On Monday, a federal grand jury in Richmond will begin hearing new allegations against Vick.
Vick's attorneys are seeking a deal that limits his prison time and saves his NFL career, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations.
Meanwhile, a plea agreement hearing for one of Vick's co-defendants has been delayed until Friday. Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach had his plea hearing pushed back from Thursday to Friday in U.S. District Court in Richmond.
Peace will appear at a 9:15 a.m. hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson. Peace's appearance will follow the 9 a.m. hearing of fellow co-defendant Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta.
The rescheduling of Peace's plea hearing will not affect the timing of Vick's decision about his own plea deal, one of the people with knowledge of the case said.
Vick's legal team not only must negotiate with the U.S. Attorney's Office, but with the NFL as well. If Vick cannot secure a deal that saves his NFL career, he could decide to go to trial, risking a lengthy prison sentence if he is convicted.
Atlanta lawyer Dan Meachum, a member of Vick's defense team, declined to comment Tuesday on any possible negotiations.
"I stand by Michael Vick, " Meachum said. "He's a good kid in a bad situation. I'm a dog owner, a dog lover. I would not be involved in this case if I didn't believe in him."
Vick stands indicted of a single count of conspiracy to cross state lines to engage in illegal gambling; sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture; and buy, transport and receive dogs for animal fighting. The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is five years in prison. But if Vick were to plead guilty, he is expected to face no more than a year in prison, according to federal guidelines.
If Vick could negotiate a deal that drops the conspiracy charge and allows him to only admit a role in the dogfighting offenses â€” which are misdemeanors â€” he could face even less time.
Vick entered a not guilty plea during his July 26 appearance at the U.S. District Courthouse in Richmond. Following that hearing, one of Vick's defense attorneys, Billy Martin, said the legal team intended to prove Vick's innocence at trial, set for Nov. 26.
But this week, Vick learned that in the criminal justice system, friendship only goes so far. That may have prompted him to try to work out a deal. On Monday, guilty plea hearings were scheduled for Peace and Phillips. The third co-defendant, Tony Taylor, pleaded guilty July 30 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against Vick.
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