Monday, August 27, 2007

Ookie's day in court

Michael Vick's immediate future is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson. Vick appears before the bench today to formally enter his guilty plea. Vick filed his statement with federal prosecutors Friday acknowledging that the government "would prove its case beyond reasonable doubt." The statement of Vick's Ookie side may be read on The Smoking Gun.

Michael Vick is compiling quite an archive at The Smoking Gun.

Give Vick his due process

The prosecution's statement accompanies Vick's guilty plea. In it, they say Vick acknowledges that, by entering his plea, he is waiving his legal "due process" rights, which are:

  • the right to plead not guilty and to persist in that plea;
  • the right to trial by jury
  • the right to be represented by [legal] council
  • the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, to be protected from compelled self-incrimination, to testify and present evidence, and to compel the attendance of witnesses.

Due process is a legal term. When Vick's Atlanta supporters cry out for his due process rights, they are referring to his shattered reputation based on news releases. They buy into Vick's initial denials of involvement even as mounting evidence exposed Vick's series of lies. [That ends today, of course.] And they want him to play football, before, during and after the fallout of the ugly episode. After all, "they're just dogs."

These are p.r. issues, not legal ones. Mr. Vick is well represented by council. Both his signed statement and the prosecutor's written statement acknowledge Vick's due process.

They were just dogs

Because they were just dogs, Vick is looking at 12 to 18 months rather than life imprisonment (see Carruth, Rae).

The real deal

Vick agreed with the prosecutors to waive his right to appeal, if the sentence imposed by Judge Hudson varies from the prosecution's recommendation. And he agreed to pay any monetary penalties immediately.

Vick will also pay for the disposition of Bad Newz Kennels stable of dogs now in government custody. The dogs are the subject of a civil action known as United States v. Approximately 53 Pit Bull Dogs, Case No. 3:07CV397. That involves "all costs associated with the care of the dogs . . . , including, if necessary, long-term care and/or the humane euthanasia of some or all of the animals as may be directed by the judge in that case."

He agrees to give up any ownership interest in the Bad Newz dogs.

Vick agrees to cooperate truthfully with the prosecution in future grand jury testimony and pre-trial conferences (presumably against others); to submit to polygraph examinations; to fully debrief the government on the details of his operation and of other dog fighters that he may know of. His signed statement of fact was sufficient to support his plea deal. He knows more and he agrees to tell all.

Any violation of any law by Vick will affect his reduction of sentence.

Vick agrees that, if he does not cooperate truthfully, his statements may be used against him in future prosecution. He effectively waives his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Hard swallow

These provisions must be hard for Vick. He was reared in a socio-economic strata that views the Man with deep suspicion, born of ham-handed treatment by the law. Cooperation with the police is seen as almost traitorous. I have no idea of Vick feels that way. ESPN's Howard Bryant touched on this his lengthy piece Vick's next role is an unsavory one: Government informant.

"He may be called a snitch, but aiding federal authorities is the most honorable thing for this disgraced man to do at this late date. It could even be the beginning of his redemption."

Bryant's story speculates that Ookie could provide so much new evidence about the underground dog fighting culture that he could escape jail time altogether. I'm not sure about that one, but Bryant points out that the deal means that Vick would have to rat out other NFL players involved in dog fighting.

Commissioner Goodell's problems in this area may only be beginning.


Animal Chaplain said...

I think it is a sad commentary that we, as a culture, our using the Vick story to compare "What's worse?" "What's worse", we ask, "carelessly fathering illegitimate children, or dogfighting?". "Dogfighting or rape?" "Dogfighting or racism?" "Dogfighting or hateful nationalism?" "Dogfighting or (fill in the blank)....?"

Dogfighting is one more piece of evidence our country is in need of a spiritual transformation (please note I said spiritual and not necessarily religious). Animals are sentient beings - they feel pain, and they suffer, just like we do. They are not more important, or less important than human beings, but like human beings, they are important, too.

Every major faith teaches its followers to be responsible stewards of animals and the Earth. Please help us get the word out that caring for animals, just like caring for people, is an important part of just being a decent person and citizen. If we make this a priority, there will be no more dogfighting horror stories, and no more pointless comparisons of evils. Let us all rise, together, to be better people than we are today, shall we?

Chaplain Nancy Cronk

Anonymous said...

they are less important than human beings at the moment because it is humans who rule. if, in fact, these dogs were so important killing them would not be an option. if they could not all be adopted out, they should be allowed to spend their days either running in the wild and making their way or being kept by humans. the mere fact that anyone is considering "putting them down" lends one to believe that they are "less than".