Key questions and answers in the Michael Vick case
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, 27, was indicted Tuesday in federal court on conspiracy charges related to dogfighting. Here are key questions and answers in the case.
Q: What happens next?
A: A summons was issued Wednesday calling for Vick to appear before a magistrate judge in Richmond at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 26 – the same day of the Falcons’ first practice of the season. He’s scheduled to be arraigned at 4 p.m. the same day before a district judge.
Q: What’s a summons?
A: A court order commanding an individual to appear before a magistrate judge at a certain time to answer charges. It’s similar to an arrest warrant, except that a summons directs the defendant to appear on his own.
Q: Why a summons? Why wasn’t Vick arrested?
A: It’s actually pretty common for the U.S. District Court to issue a summons instead of sending in law enforcement to arrest him or her, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “They only send law enforcement agents out of necessity,” said office spokesman James Rybicki.
Q: Could Vick be sent to jail after his arraignment?
A: Not likely. In 2004, Vick signed a 10-year, $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. He could afford to make bail if one is set. The charge he’s facing also likely isn’t serious enough that he would be held without bail.
Q: What do we know about the prosecutor and the judge?
A: The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill, who declined to provide background information, said a U.S. attorney’s office spokesman. The judge, Henry E. Hudson, joined the Eastern District bench in 2002. (See story, Page A1.)
Q: Who is representing Vick?
A: Vick’s lawyer is Larry Woodward, a Virginia Beach attorney who has also represented the NBA’s Allen Iverson. A Peninsula native, Iverson has had his share of legal bouts, including being sued in connection with a 2005 bar fight.
Q: How did federal officials get involved in this case?
A: It’s against federal law to transport animals across state lines for fighting purposes. Court filings accuse Vick, Tony Taylor, Purnell A. Peace and Quanis L. Phillips of traveling to several states to participate in dogfights.
Q: What is known of the other three defendants?
A: Phillips is a longtime friend of Vick’s. They played football together at Ferguson High School in Newport News. Phillips was with Vick at the Atlanta airport when a checkpoint screener said his Rolex watch was stolen by one of Vick’s companions, according to a March 2005 story in the Washington Post. Information about Peace and Tayor isn’t available.
Q: Will anyone else be charged?
A: Federal officials aren’t talking, but their news release said the investigation is continuing.
Q: What type of sentence could Vick get if he’s convicted in federal court?
A: Vick, Taylor, Peace and Phillips are accused of conspiring to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and animal fighting. If they’re convicted on the travel charge, they face a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and full restitution. If convicted on the animal fighting portion of the charge, they face a year in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both.
Q: What’s happening with the local case?
A: Surry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter could still bring charges, and he told the Daily Press Tuesday that his office is interested in a dog-killing charge. July 24 is the next grand jury date.
Q: How have animal rights groups and other activists reacted to the indictment?
A: A joint letter from PETA, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and civil rights activist Al Sharpton was sent Wednesday to the Atlanta Falcons, the NFL and Vick’s corporate sponsors urging them to “stand up for what is right, and speak out against what is wrong.” The letter said, “dogfighting is unacceptable. Hurting animals for human pleasure or gain is despicable. Cruelty is just plain wrong.” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said “anyone capable of forcing dogs to fight to the death should be kept away from all vulnerable forms of life, particularly children and animals.” On Tuesday, the American Humane Society called the indictment a “coup” in the battle against dogfighting.
Q: Can Vick still play football while this is going on?
A: It’s not clear. The NFL has said it plans to wait and see what happens in the case, but will also review the matter under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. The Falcons have released a statement saying they “plan to do the right thing for our club as the legal process plays out.” For more on this topic, see today’s Sports section. The NFL Players’ Association issued a statement that said: It’s unfortunate that Michael Vick is in this position, as these allegations are extremely disturbing and offensive. This case is now in the hands of the judicial system and we have to allow the legal process to run its course. However, we recognize Michael still has the right to prove his innocence. Hopefully, these allegations are untrue and Michael will be able to continue his NFL career. We will continue to monitor this case very closely.”