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Wednesday, August 22, 2007
 
American Acquiescence to Dog Fighting and Michael Vick

Let me begin by saying that I find dog fighting disgusting and reprehensible. Taking a fellow animal--and one with which we share a surprisingly similar genetic makeup--and training it to attack, maim, and kill other members of its species, all for the pleasure thrill of our fellow humans, seems immoral per se. That's particularly true when considering the catastrophic injuries often suffered by those dogs, some of whom are also beaten, electrocuted, drowned, hanged, or shot. Put another way, dog fighting doesn't say much for the human animal, other than that we, just like the dogs we train to maim and kill, can be a sickeningly violent and sadistic species.

But maybe I am wrong to prejudge dog fighting so harshly. After-all, as numerous articles over the last day have revealed, thousands of Americans participate in dog fighting each year, suggesting that many of my fellow Americans disagree with my outsiders' take. In fact, dogfighting is, as the Washington Post's Paul Duggan writes, a popular and longstanding American blood sport. It became a prominent betting pastime in the mid-1800s, and while many state laws subsequently banned it, those laws have often lacked serious enforcement (what a surprise). Consequently, dog fighting has remained a celebrated ritual in some rural communities and urban settings.

So if dog fighting is popular, even beloved, in some pockets of the country, with the government largely unable or unwilling to stop it, are those who grow up around it less culpable for engaging in it? Imagine, for a moment, the following: your dad and older brother are big fans of dog fighting and you grow up watching it with them, watching them genuinely love the "sport," much like you watch them genuinely love rooting for your local NFL franchise. How would that experience shape you as a person?

One strong possibility, it seems, would be for you to gradually regard dog fighting as acceptable behavior and something fun to watch--after-all, who do we look up more to than dad and big brother? And the grotesqueness of it would probably be obscured, with the dogs' injuries and fatalities rationalized away. While not normally an oracle of wisdom, New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury alludes to this line of thought when talking about Michael Vick:
From what I hear, dog-fighting is a sport. It’s just behind closed doors and I think it’s tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down. I think he’s one of the superb athletes and he’s a good human being. I think he fell into a bad situation.
So let's say, for the sake of argument, that Vick grew up watching dogfighting with family and friends, and thus has always regarded it as acceptable, even if he knew, as evidenced by his keeping his involvement largely secret, that folks like me and probably you loathe it. Would that change, in any way, how we explain his participation in dog fighting? And will our outrage toward Vick's connection to dogfighting lead us to crack down on this longstanding, hitherto unimpeded "American blood sport," or has our outrage been more motivated by Vick himself, with the dogs merely soon-to-be forgotten role players in the story? If so, what might that say about us?





30 Comments:

This would be a good post if it was on the situationist not a law blog. Can we really excuse someoes behavior because of where they grew up, even if the law clearly says no. Just imagine replacing rape or stealing, or beating women, or other malicious things with dogfighting, would the law allow you to disregard it?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 9:17 AM  


Superb analysis Professor McCann.

The first question I asked myself when the Vick case began to unfold was "why?" "Why would someone who has it all jeopardize his future?" Why would someone who has more money then he knows what do with dabble in gambling with large sums of money on dog-fighting?"

Why?

And then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Despite what one gets into in his future, he cannot simply walk away from his history and roots. If I were to argue for Vick at this very instance, the following is an initial analysis of the case from that perspective. But note that the following is not necessarily my strictly adopted opinion.

Michael Vick more than likely grew up around dog-fighting and sees it in a different light than does the rest of the public. The methods of execution alleged in his case removed, Vick likely does not see dog-fighting as a form of cruelty, but yet a form of sport, a sport of power, a sport of pure adrenaline, which could be the factor in his decision to participate. And with his decision to associate with dog-fighting, I cannot help but to think that Vick had not the intent to harm anyone or break any law. Perhaps he lied to the Commissioner and the Falcons because he knew they would not understand his thoughts on the matter.

As you mentioned, dog-fighting does seem to have a history in this country. And although there are laws prohibiting it, the laws seem to be largely un-enforced or pursued for enforcement. There once was a law in Georgia that one was prohibited from eating Chicken with a fork. This law, from what I gather and recall, was on the books for quite sometime. But was it enforced? NO.

Now I understand that the finger food only law is not in the least bit related to the nature of the anti-dog fighting law, but the underlying principle is the same: when there is an un-enforced law on the books, people tend to not think twice before breaking it. And when asked by others to obey it, they skirt the issue either with lies and or disobedience.

After reading the indictment against Vick, I got the feeling that it was more of an animal cruelty case than anything. If I were the prosecutors, this would be the avenue under which I would most heavily pursue the case. The manner in which these dogs were allegedly executed is sickening, and appropriate action needs to be taken.

As for dog-fighting, maybe America should consider the argument that un-enforced or largely neglected laws ought not be enforced to the max (or semi-max) upon those in violation thereof. Perhaps we should use Michael Vick as a vehicle to boost awareness and accountability to these particular laws against dog-fighting. But perhaps we should also consider the context and surrounding factors before judging the activities for which he is being persecuted and prosecuted.

Like you said in your post, Dog-fighting is a terrible and inhumane sport, but a sport nonetheless. And due to the lack of general information and exposure to it amongst the American public, maybe the American public is engaging in the ill-advised practice of speaking before thinking.

With all that said, I am disappointed in Michael Vick. I'm from the out-skirts of Atlanta and was a Vick fan as well as a Falcons fan. To an extent, I still am. But there is nothing more I love than an old fashioned success story. Hopefully Vick can persevere and overcome that which has led to his downfall.

The fact that he has pleaded guilty in the matter is a good first step. It gives him some credibility in accepting responsibility for his actions. People are not perfect, and as they such they tend so "screw up" sometimes. On a very grand scale, that is exactly what Michael Vick has done. But I’m a believer in the second chance, and I think that Vick can rebound from this.

I am in agreement with some jail time for the dog-fighting, but as a form of a public awakening. But I most agree with the jail time for the cruelty aspect of the case, which shall serve as the basis for retribution and punishment. It is this aspect of the case which disturbed the public; it is this aspect of the case that deserves the most attention.

Hopefully he will sort some things out during his prison sentence, and make a healthy return to the sport that first brought him to the eyes of the World: football, not dog-fighting.

And hopefully the rest of America, including NFL'ers and other professional athletes engaged in dog-fighting will wake up and find something else to do before they put themselves at risk.

Lastly, and tying all this into legal theory, should we punish someone excessively the actual charge listed in the indictment? The fact of the matter is that he is accused of engaging in a conspiracy to commit an offense that is largely un-enforced and neglected.” Maybe the indictment should have focused more or mainly on the animal cruelty aspects of the case, not the dog-fighting aspects. As such, the indictment seems to have at least some inconsistency with the current enforcement of the law.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 11:07 AM  


Anonymous 9:17 AM,

Thanks for your comment. Acknowledging the role of one's environment in explaining their behavior does not excuse what they do. It's not an "all or nothing" proposition.

Instead, acknowledging environment can help us identify the social and situational factors that make it harder--which is not the same thing as "impossible"--for some to identify right from wrong in certain situations and, more important, reveal how we may be responsible for some of those factors and what we can do to fix them.

To assume that people live in a vacuum when making good and bad choices is certainly easier and self-affirming for many of us, but it neither honest nor accurate.

As to Michael Vick, we should hold him responsible for breaking the law. But if we really care about the victims of his actions, then don't we have an obligation to identify what factors may have made him more likely to break the law, and if we discover that we bear some responsibility for those factors, shouldn't we do something about them?

Blogger Michael McCann -- 8/22/2007 11:25 AM  


Agreed: however the same can be said for so many professional atheltes who grew up in the not so good neighbrohoods of the world, and get into trouble, i.e. pacman Jones, and the countless others who had to switch from their troubled backgrounds to the higher lifestyle of the multimillionare status, yet are bringing the culture they grew up with, with them, and allowing it to hinder their integration into the other lifestyle, one where laws are abided, or at least protrayed that way.

This cannot just be an excuse for MIke Vick and others. I like the suggestion about a lower sentence, but I dont think that this should be excused at all.

Anon. 917

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 11:28 AM  


Anonymous 11:07 AM,

Outstanding comments, and thanks for the additional context, it is excellent.

In terms of your last point about Vick being charged with a largely un-enforced and ignored offense, I agree, it does raise the question of selective enforcement. Perhaps that gets to the point that this case may be more about Michael Vick doing something wrong than about his actual wrongdoing or his victims. Certainly, if this case sparks a new dog fighting crackdown, we may believe otherwise, but I suspect it won't.

Anonymous 9:17 AM,

Very interesting points, and I agree, the same analysis can and should be applied to Pacman Jones and others.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 8/22/2007 11:47 AM  


Whoa. Most laws are selectively enforced. Drive any expressway and most of the folks are speeding but most are not stopped. What facts support the notion that dog fighting is popular? Because some subcultures do it doesn't make it popular. Ask the next 100 people you meet and I would wager that 100 would have never witnessed a dog fight and 99 couldn't describe in any level of detail what the "sport" of dog fighting is about. Just because something occurred in the 19th century doesn't mean we have a long history. Men fighting to the death used to be a "sport" also but civilization has moved on. So too with dog fighting. If this was 1907 maybe I could take your comments seriously but since it's 2007, they ring hollow.

Blogger Jameson Roane -- 8/22/2007 3:12 PM  


All I can say is, your post and your comments below it are brilliant. Mississipi is lucky to have you :)

Anonymous Sara -- 8/22/2007 3:20 PM  


Prof. McCann,

While the above post is interesting, there are still three points to consider:

1) Vick's dog fighting actions allegedly violated Virginia state law.

2) Vick's dog fighting actions allegedly violated federal law.

3) Vick allegedly gambled on his fights, and in doing so, risked much more of his integrity and the integrity of the sport.

This third point is the most important, and the point that the NFL and MSM are finally starting to hit on. By entering into high-stakes gambling, Vick enters the realm of Barkley and Jordan on the way to the realm of Rose and Donaghy. Vick could have gambled on three-armed mutant midget MMA matches and still have the same future problems with his career.

As to your specific argument, I feel that you are making a great deal of assumptions that are more than a stretch. As to Vick's history and character, without further information, I don't see how one can affiliate his family and past with dogfighting except to say that he's Black and from the South, which is a horrible and poorly based stereotype.

Finally, as to your concluding paragraph, I do not see how a family history could shape how the public or the law could view Vick at this point. If you are arrested for carjacking, and you claim it is because your family has been in the carjacking business for 60 years, does it make it any less of a crime against the law or against society? The popularly-elected legislatures of states around the country have enacted anti-dog fighting laws because it was determined to be in the public interest. These laws are not new. I do not see the majority of the population reversing its position on these heinous acts simply because an NFL quarterback got caught committing them.

Blogger Ben -- 8/22/2007 3:20 PM  


I'm with Ben on this one...

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 3:30 PM  


Thanks for these additional comments.

Jameson,

If you are right that "most" laws are selective enforced (I'm not sure I agree with that), that certainly doesn't make selective law enforcement a good thing, either normatively or positively. As to whether dog fighting is "popular"--sure, I concede that "popularity" is a relative term. Relative to the NFL, dog fighting is unpopular; relative to professional badminton, I suspect it's popular. But what we do know is that, in the eyes of many members of the media and I suspect most of their readers, many more Americans partake in dogfighting than was assumed before the Vick case. We've also learned that it is particularly "popular" in some pockets of the country.

Sara,

Thank you for the kind words. I feel fortunate to teach at Mississippi College School of Law and to work with some great students and faculty.

Ben,

You raise some good contextual points when comparing Vick with Pete Rose, Charles Barkley, Tim Donaghy, and Michael Jordan.

As to whether I am making assumptions about Vick, yeah, I am, and I expressly state so in the post. Moreover, outlets like NPR and CBS have surmised that Vick did, in fact, grow up partaking in dogfighting. I'm not sure if they are correct, but hypothesizing that he did for the sake of a question doesn't seem terribly unfair.

Your last point is similar to the point raised by Anonymous 9:17 AM. I'll reiterate and expound upon my response to him: Acknowledging the role of one's environment in explaining their behavior does not excuse what they do. Instead, it helps us identify the social and situational factors that make it harder--not impossible, but harder--for some to identify right from wrong in certain situations and, more important, reveal how we may be responsible for some of those factors and what we can do to fix them. You are correct, however, in implying that the law isn't set up well for such an analysis. Indeed, much of the law is premised on individual blame and a rational actor model that, in my view and that of many others, has been debunked by social psychology and related mind sciences. Along those lines (and somewhat off-topic and not necessarily in response to you), but it's interesting how we latch onto economic models of the law, and yet we fear what psychology tells us about the law. In time I suspect that will change, as more and more law students are being exposed to social psychology while in law school, and one day they will become judges and legislators.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 8/22/2007 3:55 PM  


I wonder if it would have been any different had it been cock fighting.

I can understand why laws were enacted to ban dog fighting. Humans have generally viewed dogs in a different light than other animals, particularly Americans. But I continue to have a hard time understanding why cock fighting is illegal. We are talking about chickens after all. Except for the small percentage of vegeterians and vegans amoung us, just about everybody eats chicken. Perhpas the people should check out how chickens are raised. Do you know how chicken ranchers know when they have the right feed mix? By the number of chickens that drop dead from heart attacks.

Too bad Mike Vick couldn't have picked a different fighting spport. It would have been interesting to see if the public response would have been different.

Anonymous Tim -- 8/22/2007 4:06 PM  


Using Reductio ad absurdum, let's say Vick grew up in a home where murder and cannabalism were acceptable. When he gets older, he continues the practices but gets caught and goes to jail. We can rationalize why those acts seemed acceptable to him, but if he is an adult that has been exposed to society we also have to assume he is aware that such actions are wrong. He knows that society finds such acts wrong and immoral and *chooses* to do them anyway. We can understand why he did it, but it doesn't make it any less wrong.

In regards to the dogfighting, it is clear that Vick knew he was doing something illegal. Even if he felt that dogfighting is not immoral and should be legalized, he was still aware that he was doing something "wrong." What's more, we can now legitimately call him a freaking idiot for knowingly jeopardizing his future, as well as risking his relationship with his fans and the city of Atlanta.

Blogger Matt -- 8/22/2007 5:37 PM  


Another good blog Professor McCann.
I do agree with you on the point of Vick most likely being a product of his cultural environment. It's very likely that he was raised and grew up around dog fighting so to him it's not a big deal. It's simply another sport and something to make money on (allegedly). Of course, if this were me or you on trial for these charges, would the media or anyone else outside of our immediate family and friends really give a darn about it? Probably not. The fact is, as has been alluded to many times, that we as an American mainstream culture like to build up athletes and thing bring them crashing down. Granted, Vick's previous run-ins with the law, whether warranted or not, don't help things. We as Americans and especially the media love the dramatic story of the guy who had it all and lost everything because of his own stupidity.
But really, if he had been indicted for drug trafficking or DUI manslaughter, would the sensational coverage be as rampant? Probably not because we never hear about dogfighting. It's new, fresh, and gruesome. But yet it's been going on in this country for a long time, largely undetected and unpunished. Vick is simply the fallboy for this.

On another note, as Professor Steffey suggested in Evidence class, Vick should demand his money back from his lawyers. Any competent lawyer or even law student would have probably told him to plea out way before now. The mountain of evidence against him plus his friends turning on him should have been a giant red flag for Vick's legal team to wave the white flag. A good attorney with his client's best interests in mind has to know when to minimize the damage and tell Vick to take his lumps and move on. By being the last one to plea out, Vick has done himself no favors for sentencing purposes. His legal team should give him a refund.

Blogger John Biggs -- 8/22/2007 5:38 PM  


There is a dogfighting scene in the Hollywood movie 'The Royal Tennenbaums' and they even make a joke about dog's blood spattering on a child's face. I didn't really know how widespread or violent dogfighting was at the time I saw the movie. I don't remember any outrage or PETA protests at the time but there could have been some - I'm not sure. I mention this only as another point of reference in popular culture

Blogger joejoejoe -- 8/22/2007 8:41 PM  


Although I understand the precieved cruelty of dogfighting whats not understood is the hatred for such a good guy as Michael Vick. Who can look me in the eye and tell me everything they ever did in the life was on the up and up. Mike Vick got caught period. He was charged and accepted plea bargain, but to ignore everything he has done in his community GA and VA, borders on jealousy and hate. i dont fight dogs but i know people who do, i never once looked at them like someone who was a criminal. i would assume most people i know dont even know its a serious a crime as it is. Mike Vick grew up around dogs, he most likely grew up around dog fighting and when he turned 21, invested all small amount by his standards more then anything probably to help his friends using somehting they all had in common.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 8:51 PM  


I do not know Vick. It does not sound like most who are posting know him either. I think there is a lot of sympathy for him and then people try to construct rationalizations why he's not that culpable or deserves a break.

One of the posters asked, "why?" We don't know why, but it's possible he did it because he could.

He has been a superb athelete since he was young. Then he went to college and there again, he was outstanding. In case some are not familiar, if you are an outstanding athelete, you rule whatever school you attend, and your coaches and parents make sure you get away with anything.

I'm a retired professor and always had pressure to make sure our jocks got at least a C. When my kids were in high school, it was the same.

Truly outstanding jocks grow up being very priviledged. They are never accountable for alot of what they do. We Americans like our sports, and give them a pass.

Let's also talk about his social environment. Someone might say that there is nothing like statutory rape where they came from. They can say "I'm from the south and we start having sex at 12. I started having sex with my uncle when I was 13. Maybe incest is a family tradition. So the govenment should stay out of our bedroom. Look how many football players have been arrested on spousal abuse. Maybe that's part of their social environment. What if they grew up seeing their dad slap their mother around? Does he get a pass?

Vick know it was against the law. He tried to hide from the law what he was doing. He is or was very arrogant. All his life, someone has based his value as a jock to get him out of trouble, why would he think it would be any different now.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 9:48 PM  


I'm not sure I believe that Michael Vick has done so much for Atlanta or Georgia. Maybe sell tickets to the games, but as anyone who goes to games, poor people cannot afford to go to games.

We will find out what his lawyers say in court on Monday. If he has done a lot, they will tell the judge.

I say a picture of him giving a check for $10,000 for something. It blew my mind. He got a photo-op for 10 grand! He was the second highest paid football player, has a contract for $140 mil, had tons of endorsements, and had the second most popular jersey. Plus all that, we know know that he spent more that $100K for his dog fighting venture.

It that is all he's done, it is not going to impress the judge.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 10:00 PM  


Vick killed dogs by strangulation and drowning. That is just plain sick.

Blogger James -- 8/22/2007 10:16 PM  


1. Doesn't our country kill dogs and animals of all kinds on a daily basis? (Animals in shelters, not to mention the huge slaughter industry, and as Marbury referred to big game hunting.)

2. Aren't there legal forms of animal torture in sport? (ie. horse racing, they have to shoot those horse's up with insane amounts of pain killers just so they can run, and when something happens from the unnatural act of being forced to run like that in shoes, not to mention being beaten by a hickory whip, such as a broken leg, which is almost alway fatal to horse, they then torture the horse for a year-Barbaro, just to see if they can save the horse to see if they can sire more racing horses, where the big money is.

3. Hasn't our president and vice president been sanctioning the use drowning and electrocution on human beings for quite some time, though presumably not to the point of death because dead men can't give you information, with nary the moral outrage and indignation that this Vick dog-fighting ring has brought about?

4. Isn't football a violent and barbaric sport in which people who take no risks regularly put athletes who don't know better into situations where they risk their lives and futures on a regular basis? Isn't it very similar to dog fighting, except instead of fighting to the death, these men are trying to score points and potentially cause injury to their oppontent? That's not to mention that doctors have known about the negative effect of concussions for decades and yet the NFL for years has hired corrupt doctors who argue counter to that point. Of course they knew better when they were repeatedly sending Andre Waters out there to get concussion after concussion. There was no reason for him to, by the time he was 40, have a brain that looks exactly the same as a 90 year old who'd been suffering dementia for years, and hence no reason why he should have had the severe depression that eventually ended in his suicide.

I won't condone dog-fighting, it's seems pretty awful, but it's awfully hyprocritical in a country that condones sanctioned violence in sport in boxing, mma, football, hockey, etc... and allow its president, vice-president and military to sanction illegal violence in the form of torture and war. Aren't Americans killing people in some country over there? Aren't they torturing them in much the same way that Vick and/or his friends tortured those dogs?

And this is not even to mention one of the other really disturbing thing about trials like these, the use of plea-agreements in our courts, for shouldn't any plea-agreement, as an incentive to lie, serve as reasonable doubt in any court of law? I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me crazy, for anyone who has lived more than 6 years on this planet to see a plea-agreement as otherwise.

Anonymous B -- 8/23/2007 12:16 PM  


First, let me start out by stating that Michael Vick should receive whatever punishment is due to him within the bounds of the law. The notion of "selective prosecution" (or the like) may be wrong, but it does not excuse wrong doing. Just because you haven't been caught for doing a crime doesn't make the crime OK.

That having been said, in discussions with friends and colleagues over this situation, I have found myself scratching my head a bit. As one of the respondents above referenced, I have never seen a dogfight, know anyone who has seen a dog fight (at least to my knowledge) nor been even midly interested in the sport. Not so much because of its barbaric nature (because I too watch boxing, mixed martial arts...before it became regulated, etc. in part for the sport, but also for the "saveregy"), but because I don't find it appealing.

Let's say there was a state in which it was legal and it hadn't recently been made into a Federal offense. Would we be any less or more "outraged" as a society (which apparently we are given the ton of bricks of negative public sentiment that has befallen Mr. Vick)? As an example, we condone hunting of non sustinence yielding animals (eg. Bear, Tiger, etc.) under the umbrella that it is sport and, given its guidelines, presumably humane. Objectively, speaking, if one were to look at the notion of creating prey out of a non threatening/non sustinence bearing animal (or human), it might give rise to a different perspective. We can't hunt humans. That is murder. However, we can hunt animals. That is sport. My point is not to attack the sport of hunting (which I don't have issue with), but to place this issue into a different context. Are we outraged over the dog fighting or over the way the animals have been mistreated? If it is the latter, that is not what he is legally being charged with and falls within the realm of personal opinion. If it is the former, then my context bears notice.

If one believes that thie issue is not one of our sensibilities relating to the treatment of animals, then it has to be a purely legal one. Under this premise, it would only seem equitable that A) He pay for the crime as meeted out by the Justice system, B) Once debt is paid, he be assessed in the same light by his profession (which has precedent of allowing felons and former felons to play in the league) and given the opportunity to continue employment as many of his peers have prior.

The gambling point just doesn't make any sense to me. If this were the case, I would advocate that each sport conduct an investigation of all players within the respective sports that have participated in any form of gambling (not on their own sports or teams), both legal and otherwise, of whatever degree (high stakes...whatever that is...or "petty"). If the principle of gambling is the "ill" then I suspect we would not have much of a league. While they are at, they should also investigate the gambling histories of owners, management, and league officials as well. My point is, given Michael Vick is not betting on his sport (the examples of Pete Rose and others), I don't know why this is being hailed as such an aggregious offense. I understand it is illegal, but, in the context of a reason that the NFL would ban him for life over doesn't make much sense if you believe my assertions above.

Net/net, I am not necessarily a fan of Michael Vick (I like him as a football player), therefore my perspective is not biased in that way. I just find it interesting the things we (as a society) tend to become rabid about and how they manifest themselves based upon media and groundswell of public opinion. When a famous hollywood female celebrity (for what we are not sure) was jailed for DUI (which was after repeated offenses), many of us thought that her punishment of 18 days in jail was unfair and bordering on "tragic". After all, she is not a threat to society like all of the other "bad people" in prison. Why not spend our tax money keeping those people off the streets, not a priveledged celebrity who just liked to go out and have fun with friends while repeatedly getting behind the wheel of an automobile intoxicated beyond the legal limt jeopardizing the lives of all of those with her and on the road?

Anonymous sprtan -- 8/23/2007 2:42 PM  


What is the difference between the UFC and dog fighting? And dont say one is leagal and one is not, we all know this. But why is one legal and the other one not? In both sports the subject is trained to destroy one another... Please someone answer this question....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/23/2007 2:59 PM  


Suggestions that Vick's attorneys didn't do a good job are uninformed and baseless.

Pleading guilty earlier most likely would not have given Vick any advantage. The sentencing hearing will be held several months from now. At that hearing, Judge Hudson will consider Vick's role in the activities and whether he's sorry for his actions and their effect on the community. How sorry Vick is will be determined by statements made by Vick at the sentencing hearing (not by how soon he plead out). The judge will also consider recommendations made by a probation officer in a Pre Sentencing Report. Those recommendations will not likely be influenced by the date or the order in which Vick entered his plea.

Vick is automatically entitled to a lesser sentence for "Acceptance of Responsibility", which would be the same whether he plead out first or last among the co-defendants.

A good attorney thoroughly weighs all options before advising his client to plead guilty. Once a guilty plea is entered, there's usually no going back. Before his co-defendants flipped, pleading out might not have been the best option. At any rate, a good defense attorney doesn't rush his client to plea out.

Judge Hudson is bound by the federal sentencing guidelines, which don't give him a whole lot of leeway in sentencing. He very well might slam Vick and sentence him at the upper end of the guidelines, but it won't be because he waited to enter his plea. Entering a plea three months before trial is not untimely. (Three days before trial might have been a different story.)

If Vick is sentenced at the upper end of the guidelines, it'll be because of his leading role in the activities and possibly because of the ramifications of the activities on the community, particularly if Judge Hudson views Vick as a leader and role model in the community. He is extremely harsh on drug dealers and crooked politicians who do a lot of harm to the community, but this is an unusual case. How big of a blight is illegal dogfighting on the community? My guess is Vick will be sentenced somewhere in the middle toward the upper end. He won't get any breaks, but the judge won't be as harsh as he would be on a politician who stole money from the city or a drug dealer who potentially got hundreds of people hooked on crack. He'll give Vick a stern lecture about letting himself and the community down and then give whatever he deems to be a fair sentence within the guidelines.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/23/2007 3:48 PM  


For those of you who are still of the mentality that dog fighting is a bunch of pit bulls attacking each other, you really need to read this. http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ddusdogfighting.htm#_edn2. This is not some sort of PETA propaganda, this is part of what was presented to congress when they passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act. And for those of you who are excusing the mentality, and who may be too lazy to read, let me share an exerpt with you.

“In the world of urban dogfighting, where an individual’s fighting dog is an extension of his or her own identity, defeat in a fight is unacceptable.[50] A dog that loses a fight also loses a lot of money and compromises the reputation of his owner. The end result, if the losing dog survives the fight, is immediate death if he is lucky, or torture and mutilation if the owner is embarrassed or irate.[51] For many, this ritual is a way to regain the respect of their peers. There is no reverence for life or concern for the animals. The abuses that the dogs endure - both in and out of the ring - is so gruesome that even seasoned investigators are consistently shocked by the barbarities they discover at raids. In commenting on a recent raid in South Carolina (2004), First Circuit assistant solicitor, Richard Lackey said, “It’s a gruesome scene...I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Newton County Sheriff, Joe Nichols described a 2004 raid in Georgia as, “one of the most horrible things I have experienced.”

The parade of horrors goes on and on. And for those of you who think the law and the new emphasis on enforcement is just about dogs, take a good look at just how far the rabbit hole goes.

Admittedly, the American public is very ignorant of these practices (as was I until about 3 weeks ago when I started looking into this) so this cannot be the explanation for their outrage. However, the irony is that if they were informed, their outrage would be perfectly justified.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/23/2007 5:02 PM  


I totally agree. My brother and my dad constantly beat and raped women while I was growing up. I don't see that as wrong, unlike many others.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/23/2007 7:34 PM  


Amazing! None of these arguments matter the least. Dog fighting and its related animal abuse is against Federal and State laws as enacted by the majority of American citizens. These laws apply to ALL American citizens regardless of race, religion, financial status, upbringing, whatever. Also, to suggest that some of these people may not know dog fighting is illegal is as much nonsense as suggesting any aspect of this activity can be justified. As far as these laws being selectively enforced, I suspect you will find things have changed as a result of this case.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/23/2007 8:44 PM  


to 3.48
Good post.

I would suggest to Michael Vick get a copy of Michael Irvin's Hall of Fame speech. He had everyone in tears when he apologized to his wife and kids for what he had put them through. Vick needs to watch it and see what an apology really looks and sounds like.
cp

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/24/2007 2:10 AM  


People are making to much of a big deal out of this dog fighting ring. How come the media reports about death of dogs but they don"t discuss the real issues like people who are out there actually killing other people not dogs. I think white america is making to much of a big deal about this and just wants to see another rich black man fall. People come on he already pleaded guilty and said what he did what more do you want from him, and yes it is a race thing, white america acts as if racism is not happening but it is.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/24/2007 9:23 PM  


You are right about the press does not talk about the killing of people. Senator Obama was just here in Chicago and said he was surprised that in the area, more that 30 had been murdered this year. The killings were all gang killings and were black on black. If the press made a big thing out of it, they would say it was racist. Look at the crime rates. Most of the murders are done by blacks (%) and most of the victims are also blacks. It's a problem. Look at all the big cities. The bulk of the murders happen there, but everyone is afraid to say anything because they will be called racist. I'm glad the Senator brought it up--although his solution sucked.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/28/2007 12:25 PM  


WE DO look at the background of someone...its called the hiring process. "Hey do you know that guy?"...Universities look at where you come from and your family background...as does the medical field (background checks)....everything you do in life..someone there knows who you are and where you come from..You CANNOT use your background as an excuse...BUT...Mike Vick has never used his upbringing as an excuse...his brother, who turned out a saint after all this, never used his background as a reference to his criminal intent...nor do I, being from the rural Appalachians...Eat up with drugs and poverty EVER, let that stop me from becoming the owner of a fortune 500 company. When it comes to where you were raised...let it be a blessing...and not an excuse...let it be a LESSON...and not a curse.

I support Mike Vick

Va tech Alumni 2001
James Eller

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/28/2007 4:14 PM  


Tournament of the Americas: Group A | Group B In assessing Group B along the overall scheme of the tournament, you have to assume the United States will go 8-0 in first- and second-round play.
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Sally
California Dui

Blogger Reena -- 9/15/2008 9:49 PM  


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