Posted at 11:16 a.m., Wednesday, August 15, 2007
NFL: Vick, attorneys confer as pressure intensifies
By Larry O'Dell
The conference call came two days after Vick's two remaining co-defendants scheduled plea hearings, presumably agreeing to testify against Vick if his federal dogfighting conspiracy case goes to trial as scheduled Nov. 26.
"The defense and Michael are meeting," Collins R. Spencer III, a spokesman for Vick's five lawyers, said today. At least some of the parties were participating by telephone in a meeting that began in late morning and continued well into the afternoon, he said.
"It seems they're going to be talking a while," Spencer said.
Prosecutors were not involved in the meeting, he said.
Spencer declined to say whether Vick and his lawyers were discussing a possible plea agreement in hopes of reducing his punishment and perhaps allowing him to eventually resume his NFL career.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is awaiting results of the league's own investigation of the case before determining what action to take against Vick. Under NFL policy, a player can be banned for life for gambling or associating with gambling.
The July 17 indictment and a statement signed by former co-defendant Tony Taylor, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government, link Vick to betting.
Two other co-defendants Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta will enter plea agreements Friday, and prosecutors have said they will seek a superseding indictment later this month that could mean additional charges against Vick.
Scott Sundby, a professor at the Washington & Lee University Law School and a former special assistant U.S. attorney in Miami, said Vick could cut a deal even after a superseding indictment is issued but the terms would be less favorable.
"Prosecutors tend to be more lenient early and more hard-nosed later," he said.
Peace's hearing originally had been set for 9 a.m. tomorrow before U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson. The case has been rescheduled for 9:15 a.m. Friday, 15 minutes after the hearing for Phillips.
An entry on the court's docket did not give a reason for postponing Peace's hearing. However, the revised schedule will streamline proceedings in the high-profile cases.
According to the statement signed by Taylor as part of his plea agreement, Vick financed virtually all of the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting enterprise on Vick's property in Surry County, Va.
Vick, 27, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiring to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. If convicted, the Newport News native and former Virginia Tech star faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
A search of the Surry County property in April turned up dozens of pit bulls, some of them injured, as well as equipment commonly used in dogfighting.
The indictment said dogs that lost fights or fared poorly in test fights were sometimes executed by hanging, electrocution or other brutal means. The grisly details have fueled public protests against Vick and have cost him some of his lucrative endorsement deals.