ATLANTA -- Attorneys for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick yesterday were seeking a plea deal that would limit his prison time and save his NFL career, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations.
The New York Times, citing "an individual with direct knowledge of the case," said Vick and his lawyers were weighing a plea agreement from the government that would probably put the Newport News native in prison for one to two years.
Early next week, a federal grand jury in Richmond is to begin hearing new allegations against Vick stemming from the dogfighting case. That means the former Virginia Tech star has until the end of the week to reach a deal or face more serious charges.
Washington attorney Fredrick W. Chockley III said he expects that with the new indictment, federal prosecutors would try to allege Vick played a greater role in the operation.
"That's what [Vick] is trying to forestall by working out a plea agreement with them," he told Cox News Service.
But Judge Henry E. Hudson would not be bound by any plea agreement, Chockley added.
"I don't think he's going to be affected by Michael Vick's celebrity, one way or another. He's a tough judge."
Vick's legal team not only must negotiate with the U.S. Attorney's Office, but with the NFL as well.
If Vick cannot secure a deal that saves his NFL career, he could decide to go to trial, risking a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.
Atlanta lawyer Dan Meachum, a member of Vick's defense team, declined to comment yesterday on any possible negotiations.
"I stand by Michael Vick," Meachum said. "He's a good kid in a bad situation. I'm a dog owner, a dog lover. I would not be involved in this case if I didn't believe in him."
The plea negotiations come after news that two more of Vick's three co-defendants are scheduled to enter guilty pleas this week as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Vick stands indicted of conspiracy to cross state lines to engage in illegal gambling; sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture; and buy, transport and receive dogs for animal fighting. The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is five years in prison.
Vick entered a not-guilty plea during his July 26 appearance at the U.S. District Courthouse in Richmond. After that hearing, one of Vick's defense attorneys, Billy Martin, said the legal team intended to prove Vick's innocence at trial, set for Nov. 26.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to make a decision on Vick's future in a few weeks.
He is waiting for attorney Eric Holder to complete an investigation for the NFL before making his decision, the league has said.
Holder declined to comment yesterday about his investigation.