QB living in fantasyland by denying guilt of killing dogs, gambling
By Michael Ventre
Updated: 11:09 a.m. ET Aug. 24, 2007
Confusion in the huddle.
Now it appears Michael Vick wonâ€™t admit to killing dogs and gambling when he enters his plea Monday in a Virginia courtroom. Instead, he wants to slip out of bounds quietly and without incident by admitting only to a charge of interstate commerce for the purpose of dogfighting.
Instead of plunking down thousands of dollars to see dogs rip each other apart, it seems Vick is interested in a much bigger gamble.
Itâ€™s unclear exactly where federal prosecutors stand on this latest news, first reported Thursday by ESPN. Supposedly Vickâ€™s defense team and the feds were busy hammering out a plea agreement on Thursday afternoon, and there is no word yet that talks have collapsed and Vick is instead preparing for trial on Nov. 26.
What this looks like, though, is that Michael Vick is still in denial.
When the dogfighting story first broke, Vick initially said that he had nothing to do with what was going on at his property, that he let a cousin live there, and that he didnâ€™t know a large kennel there was involved in criminal activity. By virtue of Vickâ€™s willingness to plead guilty to anything â€” even just the interstate commerce charge â€” we now know that that story was a big lie.
Vick also lied to Falcons owner Arthur Blank and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell when he denied any involvement in dogfighting.
Three witnesses gave details to the feds that Vick was heavily involved in the operation. Then Vickâ€™s three co-defendants all turned on Vick, stating that, among other offenses, Vick was present when at least eight underperforming dogs were killed in a gruesome manner. One of them stated that Vick took part in the hanging or drowning of dogs that didnâ€™t do well.
Also on Thursday his father Michael Boddie, with whom he has had a contentious relationship, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Vick had staged dog fights in the family home in Newport News, Va., sometime around 2001, and that he has asked his son to stop the practice. Boddie may not be the most credible witness of all the others involved â€” he has repeatedly asked Vick for money to live on â€” but considering what has come out of the quarterbackâ€™s mouth since this whole situation first broke, he might as well be Honest Abe Lincoln.
In this latest development, Vick is trying to carve out a deal through his attorneys similar to one that his agents might make with Nike or Rawlings, or the Falcons. He thinks that he is a star athlete, that this is a negotiation that he should win, and that the other side will eventually capitulate when they realize who he is.
But this isnâ€™t that.
First of all, if the feds somehow cave and agree to the one charge of interstate commerce, then they will have made a mockery of this entire process. Itâ€™s clear that Vick is the ringleader. No one else had the money to bankroll an extensive dogfighting operation. And there is plenty of testimony to that fact.
So if the feds stand tall and refuse to allow him to weasel out of his responsibility to society, then Vick will have miscalculated as badly as he might have after dropping back on a Sunday afternoon on the road against the Eagles. And he will have squandered any chance he had of someday returning to the NFL.
Vick wants desperately to avoid responsibility for this mess that he helped create because he wants everything to be like it was before. He wants his money. He wants his fame. He wants his reputation. He wants to be able to play quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, to be adored by fans, and to elude trouble.
Thatâ€™s why he has lied at every turn. Deep down, away from all the national outrage, the disgust expressed by animal activists, the sadness expressed by Blank, the harsh disapproval stated by Goodell, the determination of prosecutors, Vick truly believes this is no big deal. He has never apologized for what happened to those animals. He has only apologized to his family and his team for putting them through a scandal.
Heâ€™s a practitioner of dogfighting, which means for several years now he has starved and mistreated pit bulls so he and his buddies could get a cheap thrill. And when the thrill was not as expected, he hanged, drowned or electrocuted dogs.
This is sociopathic behavior. He has no conscience about any of this. To Vick, this is all a nuisance, and he wants it all to disappear so he can get on with football.
But if the feds donâ€™t let him, if they refuse to allow him to skate on a lesser charge, then Vick should be reprimanded by Goodell for continuing to gamble, because Vick will be betting his life and career.
It is already believed by many in and around the case that U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, the presiding judge in the case, may not simply rubberstamp Vickâ€™s file after a plea deal has been reached. The preliminary sentencing guidelines carry a sentence of between 12 and 18 months. Hudson said while he considers the guidelines, he is not bound by them. He told co-defendant Purnell Peace: â€œI have the authority to construe the guidelines the way I think is appropriate. Do you understand that?â€ Later in the same session, he said: â€œIf I give you five years, you canâ€™t appeal that.â€
This is a judge that does not seem inclined to dispense slaps on the wrist. If he is willing to nail each of the co-defendants for sentences that go beyond the sentencing guidelines, then what might he do to a guy like Vick if he detects that Vick is not telling the truth and is not truly remorseful for his actions?
If that never happens, if Vickâ€™s lawyers and the feds canâ€™t come to a plea agreement and this goes to trial, that will be the end of Michael Vick. Instead of Vick deftly working the system in order to come out unscathed, instead the coming weeks will only succeed in adding more horrors to his reputation.
The feds have three witnesses and another three co-defendants. If this goes to trial, they will go out and round up a lot more ammunition. Logic suggests there were more than six people besides Vick at those dog fights in an operation that crossed into several states. Prosecutors will find more witnesses, squeezing those who are reluctant, and that means a lot more details about what transpired and how deeply involved Vick was.
Eight dogs have been mentioned in most reports as being the most recent victims of depraved behavior by Vick and his cohorts. The dogfighting operation had gone on between 2002 and 2007, dog carcasses were found buried on the property, so therefore itâ€™s not a stretch to think a lot more mayhem occurred.
Hereâ€™s a simple question: If Vick wants to admit in his plea bargain that he was present when dogs were killed but did not actually kill dogs himself, as the most recent reports claim he will plea, then why didnâ€™t he do something to stop them from being killed?
Thereâ€™s no answer to that yet, probably because Vick and his attorneys have yet to figure out a way to manipulate the language to obscure that loophole.
But when Vick is finished admitting to as little as possible, he may take a step back and realize that in the judgeâ€™s eyes he has actually admitted to everything.
Michael Ventre writes regularly for MSNBC.com and is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.
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