Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has pleaded guilty to one count of promoting dogfighting, possibly commuting his prison sentence and smoothing his return to the NFL in the process. Under the plea deal, a count of cruelty to animals was dropped, to which Vick pleaded not guilty. Each felony count entailed a prison sentence of up to five years.
Vick is currently serving a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth, KS, for funding a dogfighting ring at his home in Virginia. His release from prison is scheduled for July 20, 2009. At the Tues., Nov. 25 hearing, he was handed a three-year suspended sentence. He has also admitted to participating in the killing of several underperforming dogs.
The significance of the plea deal lies in the fact that it resolves the remaining charges against Vick, allowing him to move from prison into a halfway house, designed to transition his return to society.
Although expressionless for most of the hearing, Vick did issue an apology, telling the judge, ”I want to apologize to the court, my family, and to all the kids who looked up to me as a role model.”
And if you’ll excuse a bit of editorializing …
Being thoroughly unacquainted with the finer points of our legal system, I have no idea what a halfway house actually entails or, for that matter, how the employees of such an institution help a person at the helm of our celebrity-obsessed society transition back into it, adoring public and all. I am not quite cynical enough to presume that Michael Vick was less than sincere when he uttered his apology in court today. I am cynical enough, however, to fear that his crimes may tend to (perversely) elevate his celebrity status once he reemerges on the football field, particularly among his less humane-minded fans.
I confess to being all but oblivious to what happens in the NFL, so the game’s brutality is at least as striking to me personally as its strategy. Which leaves me with that unsettling bit of cyncism—and mistrust—that Michael Vick fans will be all too easily mollified by his spartan apology. And I’m not ripping on forgiveness here. It’s the forgetting part that makes me uneasy. The crime was too heinous for us to forget, and I’m sorry, but sorry doesn’t begin to cover it.