Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Michael Vick starts serving jail time for dogfighting felony

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

In an apparent attempt to speed his return to football, Michael Vick began serving time in prison on Monday, more than three weeks before he is scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges.

Vick, the star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, turned himself in to US marshals and was brought to the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia.

Vick is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Henry Hudson on Dec. 10 in Richmond, and by beginning his jail time, he will be credited with time served. According to the sentencing guidelines, Vick faces from a year to 18 months in prison.

Hudson ordered the marshals to take Vick into custody because he "has indicated his desire to voluntarily enter custody prior to his sentencing hearing," according to a court document.

On Aug. 27, Vick pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy charges stemming from a dogfighting kennel being run from property he owned in Surry, Virginia.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely and has said he will not make a decision on Vick's future with the league until all legal proceedings are concluded.

Billy Martin, one of Vick's lawyers, said Monday in a written statement that Vick had accepted responsibility from the beginning.

"His self-surrender further demonstrates that acceptance," Martin said. "Michael wants to again apologize to everyone who has been hurt in this matter, and he thanks all of the people who have offered him and his family prayers and support during this time."

Since Vick pleaded guilty, it has been the focus of his legal team to help him return to football as soon as possible.

Vick has lost the remainder of the 10-year, US$130 million contract he signed with the Falcons in 2004, and Atlanta is trying to a regain a portion of US$37 million in bonuses he has received.

Vick has also lost millions more in endorsements, incurred a mounting legal bill and has been forced to sell two homes.

Martin did not return a telephone message seeking further explanation on why Vick began serving his prison time early.

Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former federal prosecutor, said it was "uncommon" for a defendant to turn himself in early in order to receive credit for time served but, he said, "it is a move that will get him out of jail faster, albeit just a few weeks."

The federal case is not the only one Vick faces. In September, he was indicted by a local prosecutor in Surry, Virginia, on similar dogfighting charges.

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