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February 16, 2024

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Vick may face more charges

RICHMOND, Va. – Michael Vick’s legal troubles from dogfighting could get even worse.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback faces possible prosecution in state court, where punishment might far exceed the maximum five years in prison that could await him in his federal case.

Local prosecutor Gerald Poindexter has said he likely will pursue charges against Vick, who has plummeted from favorite son to a symbol of animal abuse in the four months since authorities raided his Surry County property. Poindexter says the case could go before a county grand jury Sept. 25.

Poindexter did not return messages left by The Associated Press at his office and on his cell phone yesterday.

Among the state laws Vick could be charged with violating are those against dogfighting and animal cruelty. Both are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.

“The real question is how much overlap there would be between anything the local prosecutor would charge and what the federal prosecutors charged,” said Linda Malone, a criminal procedure expert and Marshall-Wythe Foundation professor of law at the College of William and Mary. “There are some limitations on duplication.”

Vick said through a lawyer Monday that he will plead guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. Malone said the state dogfighting charges probably would not be considered duplicative.

“The essence of the conspiracy charge is the agreement” between Vick and his coconspirators, Malone said.

Three Vick associates have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and said Vick provided virtually all the gambling and operating funds for the “Bad Newz Kennels” dogfighting enterprise. Two of them also said Vick participated in executing at least eight underperforming dogs, raising the possibility of the animal cruelty charges.

Convictions on eight animal cruelty counts could result in up to 40 years in prison if five-year terms for each count was imposed to run consecutively, but that’s seldom done. Each dogfighting count could run the sentence even higher.

Vick also was facing the possibility of additional federal charges from a new grand jury meeting this week in Richmond, but his deal with prosecutors means that’s now highly unlikely.

The 27-year-old player will enter his plea agreement Monday. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the terms are not final, told The Associated Press that prosecutors will recommend a sentence of one year to 18 months. However, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is not bound by that recommendation or by federal sentencing guidelines that will call for less than the five-year maximum.

James D. “Butch” Williams Jr., one of Vick’s five defense attorneys, said his client is fully aware he could be facing a long stretch in prison.

“Michael’s been fully apprised of all angles, all aspects,” Williams said.

It’s still unclear whether all this will end the career of one of the NFL’s most dazzling players.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could rule by the end of the week, but will probably wait until Vick actually enters his plea. The league is waiting for a report by its own observers, a group headed by Eric Holder a former deputy U.S. attorney general.

“The commissioner has not decided on a specific timetable on Michael Vick’s status,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said yesterday.

Vick has been barred from training camp by the NFL, and Goodell has asked the Falcons not to take any action until the league rules.

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