Vick Pleads Guilty, Calls Dogfighting a 'Terrible Thing'
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
RICHMOND, Aug. 27 -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick formally pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge Monday and minutes later solemnly apologized to the NFL, his team and the youth of America.
His eyes moist and his voice barely audible, the suspended former Pro Bowler spoke without notes -- "from the heart," he said -- as animal rights activists and Vick supporters gathered outside a hotel near the federal courthouse.
"I want to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature acts," he said. "If I'm more disappointed with myself than anything, it's because of all the young people, young kids that I've let down, who look at Michael Vick as a role model."
"Dogfighting," he added, "is a terrible thing."
A humbled Vick ran a gantlet of several dozen protesters as he entered the courthouse and quietly said "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson as he entered his plea to a single conspiracy count for running a brutal dogfighting ring with three co-conspirators.
Vick had admitted in court documents filed Friday that he was deeply involved in the venture and endorsed the killing of poorly performing dogs by hanging or drowning. He will be sentenced Dec. 10, and the judge in the case warned Vick that he is not bound by the 12- to 18-month prison sentence recommended by prosecutors and his attorneys.
After the hearing, Vick hugged his fiancee in the front row and wiped away a tear before heading to the hotel. He asked forgiveness from his teammates and the public. "I offer my deepest apologies to everyone," he said. "And I will redeem myself. I have to."
Vick said he had turned his life over to God and took responsibility for what he did.
"Not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or what I've done," Vick said. "I'm totally responsible."
Vick added that he'd learned from the experience. "Through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness," he said.
It remains to be seen whether Vick's words and demeanor will sway Hudson, who told Vick: "The bottom line is that if I decide you deserve five years and give you five years, you can't appeal it. You're taking your chances here. . . . You have to live with whatever decision I make."
But Vick's statement -- which was worked out with his attorneys, who deliberated into the night about where he would deliver it -- was greeted with wary optimism by even some critics.