Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ookie Cops Another Plea

The disgusting saga of Michael Vick took another turn today, this time in a Virginia courtroom.

Vick, the former Falcons star now serving a federal prison sentence for a dogfighting conviction, returned to the Old Dominion to face state charges on the same crimes.

Appearing briefly in a Surry County court, Vick entered a guilty plea to state dogfighting charges. He received a three-year suspended sentence--far less than the 10 years in prison he could have faced.

Vick's move is designed to speed his release from prison and return to the NFL. By clearing up the state charges against him, Vick becomes eligible for transfer to a halfway house, where he can spend the rest of his prison sentence.

Once the NFL's highest-paid player, Vick is now scheduled for release on 20 July 2009. He is now housed at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas but the halfway house will probably be closer to his Virginia home. After release, Vick will be on probation through 2012.

After today's 20-minute hearing, members of Vick's family expressed relief that his legal ordeal is apparently coming to an end. But no one suggested that the proceeding was, to some degree, unnecessary. In many respects, the hearing was little more than a show trail, designed to help local authorities save face.

Make no mistake; we have no sympathy for Mike Vick. The one-time Virginia Tech phenom, who goes by the handle of "Ookie" is a cruel-hearted thug who actually deserved more prison time for his crimes. Lest we forget, Vick and his "Bad Newz Kennels" sent dozens of animals to their death in pursuit of his barbaric hobby, dogfighting.

But the NFL star's brutal pastime could have ended much earlier--if local officials had intervened. Neighbors around Vick's former estate near Smithfield, Virginia noticed something was afoot when he began constructing a massive kennel complex on the property--before building a $700,000 mansion.

There were also complaints about unusual activity at the home; the large number of pit bulls kept on the estate; crowds gathering on the weekend and suspicious sounds coming from the kennel area. But those complaints were ignored by the Surry County Sheriff's office and (as far as we can tell) they never warranted attention from the local prosecutor, Gerald Poindexter.

In fact, Vick's dogfighting ring wasn't discovered until April, 2007, when a police officer from Hampton, Virginia went to the house to question the quarterback's cousin, who had been arrested on marijuana charges. Disturbed by what he saw, the officer alerted state and county authorities.

A subsequent search of the property yielded compelling evidence of dogfighting activity. Officers discovered the carcasses of dead animals, scores of scarred dogs and "rape stands" in Vick's kennel, but Mr. Poindexter urged a "go slow" approach. Two months after the initial search, the prosecutor told local reporters that he "didn't have a single investigative report" in his files.

Meanwhile, U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg built an air-tight case against Vick and secured the pro quarterback's first plea deal in August 2007, only four months after the initial property search. State charges didn't come until after Vick went to federal prison.

Poindexter's "handling" of the case sparked outrage in Surry County, and a write-in campaign against the prosecutor. Unfortunately, he won re-election last year, and will remain on the job until 2011. Cynics say that's about the time that Michael Vick would have faced state dogfighting charges--had Mr. Poindexter been left to his own devices.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

As much as I don't like (heck, despise) what he did, this feels very double-jeopardy-ish to me. To be prosecuted for the same crime (or so close that they are indistinguishable) just feels wrong.