Friday, August 24, 2007

Poindexter Speaks

Oh, NOW Surry County wants to aggressively prosecute Michael Vick on dog fighting charges. So says Commonwealth Attorny Gerald Poindexter in a story in yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Poindexter, whose deliberate pace of investigation probably triggered the federal government's more active participation, says he will base his case, in part, on evidence developed in the fed's prosecution of Vick and his Bad Newz Kennels co-defendants.

That's no more helpful now than was Surry County's snail's pace effort before. All the more so because it gives Vick's defense team something more to think about as they craft his guilty plea to federal charges. Now they must avoid any admission that could weaken Vick's defense to State charges.

In football, there is a penalty for late hits. There should be one here too. Justice is best served by having Vick admit to everything in one swoop. That does create the situation where Vick is guilty of the conspiracy, but not charged with the underlying crime.

State charges should have been lodged first, or at least concurrent with the federal indictment. Now, State charges are anti-climatic and complicate matters for the feds as much as for Ookie. I think Vick's guilty plea this Monday will be less comprehensive than it might have been before Poindexter's announcement. [UPDATE: Vick will deny killing dogs]

The newspapers make a point of saying that States can level charges based on federal evidence. Such steps are not double jeopardy under the Bill of Rights because the accused faces different charges under a different, but related, set of facts. Double jeopardy is a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

That's the wrong angle for this story. The Bad Newz guys are pleading guilty to federal charges and admitting to the criminal facts that violate Virginia law. To use those guilty pleas in State charges now seems like a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibiting self-incrimination. I don't see how the State can get away with that. But, I'm not a lawyer. I just watch them on TV.

Surry County, so slow to move in the case before, should move slowly now. Better yet, drop the case if Vick admits violating Virginia law in his federal plea. Lets not make this prosecution a persecution.

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