Vick surrenders, jailed before sentencing on dogfighting charge

RICHMOND, Va. -- Michael Vick surrendered to U.S. marshals on Monday and will remain in jail until his sentencing on a dogfighting charge in three weeks.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10 but turned himself in because he anticipates a prison term on the federal dogfighting conspiracy charge, according to a court document. Vick could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

"From the beginning, Mr. Vick has accepted responsibility for his actions, and his self-surrender further demonstrates that acceptance," Billy Martin, one of Vick's lawyers, said in a statement. "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."

Vick is being held at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, until his sentencing, U.S. marshals told The Associated Press. The mixed-gender facility houses about 450 inmates.

The order filed in U.S. District Court said: "Vick has indicated his desire to voluntarily enter custody prior to his sentencing hearing. It appearing appropriate to do so, the U.S. Marshal is ordered to take custody of the Defendant immediately upon his surrender."

The order added Vick was taken into custody "based solely on his desire to begin his period of incarceration prior to his sentencing hearing and not because of violation of any condition of his bond."

In an e-mail sent to the AP, the U.S. attorney's office confirmed Vick's surrender but declined further comment.

Vick's decision to begin serving time before sentencing was approved by the judge and Vick's lawyers.

Ronald Bacigal, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in criminal law and criminal procedure, said there are no real direct legal benefits to Vick's decision to turn himself in before sentencing.

"I don't think there's any benefits except getting (the sentence) started," Bacigal said. "I would think he's purely thinking about timing as far as when he can get back to his football."

Vick also could be trying to show the judge he has accepted responsibility for his actions in hopes of a lighter sentence, Bacigal said.

"One of the things the judge is liable to consider is admitting fault," Bacigal said.

Whether that will work is anyone's guess.

"It's kind of like reading tea leaves knowing what's the exact impact on the judge," Bacigal said.

The federal dogfighting case began in late April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided the property Vick owns in Surry County and seized dozens of dogs, most of them pit bulls, and equipment associated with dogfighting.

It's there that the dogfighting enterprise known as Bad Newz Kennels operated since 2001 on 15 acres of land Vick owned.

Vick initially denied any knowledge of the enterprise, then pledged after he was charged that he would fight to clear his name. After his three co-defendants pleaded guilty, Vick followed suit.

The gruesome details outlined in the federal indictment -- dogs were hanged, drowned and electrocuted -- fueled a public backlash against the Falcons star and cost him several lucrative endorsement deals, even before he agreed to plead guilty to the dogfighting conspiracy charge.

In his written plea, Vick admitted helping kill six to eight pit bulls and supplying money for gambling on the fights. He said he did not personally place any bets or share in any winnings, but merely associating with gambling can result in a lifetime ban under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Vick and his co-defendants also face state felony dogfighting charges. Vick has been charged with two state felony counts -- beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Each felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Suspended indefinitely by the NFL without pay, Vick was unable to stay out of trouble. He tested positive in September for marijuana, a violation of U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson's order that he stay clean in exchange for being allowed to be free.

After that positive test, Hudson ordered Vick confined to his home address between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with electronic monitoring and random drug testing.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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