Former NFL star Michael Vick plans to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in an effort to get an early release from federal prison and enter a halfway house, according to papers filed in Surry County Circuit Court.
If the plea deal goes as planned, it would help Vick overcome several obstacles in his goal to return to professional football next year.
Vick’s attorneys filed court papers seeking permission to let Vick plead guilty via video-conference call from the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., where he is serving a 23-month term for his role in an interstate dogfighting conspiracy.
Vick, 28, pleaded guilty to a federal charge in August 2007. He still faces single felony counts of dogfighting and cruelty to animals in state court. Each charge carries up to five years in prison, but Vick is not expected to serve additional prison time, according to a source close to the case who has seen details of the plea deal but requested anonymity because it has not been filed in the court.
Surry County Circuit Court officials said a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 30, when Vick’s lawyers will ask a judge for permission to take the plea by video conference. No specific date for the plea itself has been officially set.
The papers, filed Oct. 15, say that Federal Bureau of Prisons policy requires an inmate resolve any pending charges before being allowed entry into a halfway house. A bureau spokeswoman confirmed that policy.
Vick’s scheduled release date is July 20, and the soonest he could enter a program is six months before that.
Vick’s lawyers, Lawrence H. Woodward Jr. of Virginia Beach and William R. “Billy” Martin of Washington, declined to answer questions Tuesday but issued a statement.
“Mr. Vick is committed to taking responsibility for his actions,” the statement reads.
“He is hopeful that, through this motion, the trial court will allow him to finally resolve these matters and put the charges behind him so that he can begin to focus on his future and to prepare to be reunited with his family,” the statement concludes.
Surry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter did not return phone calls for comment Wednesday. The court filings indicate that he has agreed to the plea deal.
Vick’s state trial has been postponed repeatedly since he was indicted in Surry County more than a year ago. Poindexter has not been willing to pay to have Vick and other co-defendants transported from various federal prisons.
Vick and his attorneys have made it clear that he plans to seek reinstatement to the National Football League. Vick is under indefinite suspension by the league. The Atlanta Falcons, where Vick starred for six seasons before his arrest, have said they have no interest in Vick.
A transfer to a halfway house would make it easier for Vick to seek reinstatement to the NFL.
Federal halfway houses are privately run facilities that “provide a safe, structured, supervised environment, as well as employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance, and other programs and services,” according to a description on the Bureau of Prisons’ Web site.
In a halfway house, Vick would be free to seek employment and meet with the NFL and any interested teams, but he would be monitored 24 hours a day until he completes his sentence.
About 250 federal halfway houses are managed by 28 government field offices throughout the country. Twenty of the 28 offices are in NFL cities.
Tim McGlone, (757) 446-2343, email@example.com