When news of the Michael Vick indictment came across the wire yesterday, we immediately turned to Booter, our resident legal expert, to sift through all the crap and give us the straight talk as to what Mr. Vick & Co. are in for and what this all means. Just to be clear, yes we do know a lawyer, yes his nickname is "Booter" and yes he actually practices for a large firm. Think of him as a cross between Roger Cossack, Lionel Hutz and John "Bluto" Blutarsky. Basically he's the guy whose basement McD and I will be living in when we're unemployed in five years. Anyway, here's what he had to say about the Vick situation:
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you probably heard that Michael Vick was indicted yesterday on charges related to dog fighting on property he purchased in Surry County, Virginia. While not the best turn of events for Mr. Mexico, being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury does not (pay attention Mr. Nifong) mean he is guilty of anything. At least not yet.
The grand jury exists as a sort of initial screening device in the federal criminal justice system. In essence, the members of the grand jury, selected from the public, are asked two questions. First, is there reason to believe, based on the testimony given by the witnesses that a crime was committed? Second, is there reason to believe, based on the testimony given that the defendant (in this case Mr. Vick) is guilty. The prosecutor's burden of proof is exceedingly low, which is much different than a criminal trial where guilt must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Charges against Vick and Friends:
According to the indictment, Mike and friends are charged with Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture (the "Travel Act" charges) as well as the operation of an illegal dog fighting venture. The Travel Act charges are punishable by up to five years in the Federal Pen and up to a $250,000 fine. The animal fighting charges carry a maximum sentence of $100,000 and a year in the pen or both.
At the most basic level, the conspiracy charges means that Vick and his buddies agreed to start a dog fighting venture and then took steps to do so. According to the indictment Vick and his pals bought and developed property, bought dogs, trained and bred dogs to fight, took dogs across state lines to fight, invited dogs from outside Virginia to fight, and funded other expenses of the operation. The reason the Feds are involved in this one as opposed to the State of Virginia is related to the fact that dogs crossed state lines and possibly the products that Vick, aka Ron Mexico (aka Ron Mexico, man it'd be hilarious if when he gets booked he actually lists that as an alias) purchased (e.g. the infamous rape stand) implicate interstate commerce.
What's Next for Mr. Mexico?
Immediately, Vick has two options. Turn himself in to the federal authorities or wait to get arrested. Ideally, he and his attorney can reach an agreement where he is allowed to turn himself at a time and place outside the public eye, avoiding the chance that his "perp walk" is caught on tape. However, given the insatiable nature of the WWL's need to cover things ad nauseum, Vick turning himself in will be a circus a la Paris Hilton reporting to jail.
After reporting, Vick will be booked, fingerprinted, and have his mug shot taken, after which he will have the opportunity to ask the judge to set bail. If bail is set and posted, then the legal fun begins.
What would I do if I were representing him?
If I was representing Vick, the main goal would be to get him out of this case as fast as possible. A long drawn out pre-trial and then trial phase will be bad for his career, wallet, public image, and should he be convicted, his corn hole. More likely than not, getting Vick out early means having him pull a Ray Lewis and flip on his co-conspirators. This option is attractive to both the prosecutor and the defense in the early stages of the case, as it benefits both sides. Vick would get a lesser sentence (or maybe immunity) in exchange for spilling the beans, and the prosecutor gets a key witness who can help push the case over the higher burden of proof. If I was a betting man, I'd bet heavily that Vick flips on his buddies, gets little or no jail time, pays a monster fine, and ends up on probation for a good long time. His friends would end up taking the fall, going to jail and then Vick would then take care of them when they get out of the joint much, like Diddy let Shine go down for shooting up the club a few years back.
Beyond Vick's trouble, I wouldn't be surprised if his endorsement deals completely dried up. I would be surprised, although not completely blown away, if the Falcons chose to terminate his contract under the clause in the standard NFL contract that allows the team to terminate a player's contract "if player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by the Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club." Such an action by the Falcons would surely trigger Vick or the NFLPA to file a grievance, which would lead to proceedings in front of an arbitrator to determine if the Falcons were reasonable for terminating him. If I was the arbitrator, I'd likely side with the Falcons. It's perfectly reasonable for a company to not want a felon on its payroll. Although the cap hit the Falcons would take might dissuade them from cutting Vick in the end.
Thanks for the input Booter, we are in your debt. Oh and just to let you, the reader, in on something, when asked a very pertinent question by me, Mr. Booter had this to say:
"Yes, Phillips, this is definitely far worse than giving a chick herpes."
Hey, I had to ask.
Just in case you haven't had enough of this story, here's where you can find a copy of the indictment.