Law, cultural expert available for comment

What Vick can avoid if he accepts a plea deal

“If all of the other defendants accept plea deals, and Vick does not, Vick will become the last man standing,” says Christopher A. Bracey, associate professor of law and of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “This means that he will not only bear the brunt of a focused prosecution, but one substantially assisted by his former co-defendants.” Bracey is following the case and is available for interviews. His comments on what Vick can avoid by accepting a plea deal are available below:

Christopher Bracey
Christopher Bracey

Editor’s note: Bracey is available for phone, e-mail and broadcast interviews. Washington University has VYVX and ISDN lines available free for news interviews.

Maximum punishment:

“The deal under consideration includes some prison time, but far less than the six years he could face if convicted on the conspiracy charge.”

Additional charges:

“The grand jury is scheduled to meet on Monday, and should Vick decline the prosecutor’s offer, the grand jury could file a superseding indictment that includes additional charges and, presumably, the risk of additional fines and jail time.”

Stress and anxiety:

“Criminal trials — particularly those involving well-known people — place tremendous stress not only upon the individual, but also on the relationships that the individual shares with others,” he says. “One should not overlook the suffering of friends, family members, loved ones — even business associates — occasioned by the stress of criminal trial.

“Foregoing trial releases this pressure valve, and provides a welcome opportunity to atone and move on with one’s life. For Michael Vick, this means focusing on returning to sport that brought him fame and notoriety before the dog fighting fiasco.”

Reputation damage:

“To be sure, entering a guilty plea may lead to reputation damage,” Bracey says.

“But there is little doubt that the revelations and testimony occasioned by public trials — particularly those in the media spotlight — can inflict far more damage.

“Consider, for a moment, the criminal proceedings against Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson and Marv Albert. Jackson and Simpson went the distance and were both exonerated, but their favorable verdicts have done little to ameliorate the reputation damage sustained as a result of having been tried in the first place. By contrast, Albert chose to plea after the first day of trial in order to avoid further embarrassment to his family. After a brief hiatus, Albert returned to the broadcast booth, his past transgression a mere footnote on his illustrious career.

“With his endorsement contracts suspended and NFL career in limbo, the risk of further reputation damage is a non-trivial consideration for Michael Vick.”

Unavoidable problems of a guilty plea:

“As an initial matter, Vick will, in all likelihood, be asked to plea to a felony charge,” Bracey says.

“As a consequence, Vick must bear the stigma that comes with being a convicted felon. Second, it is not entirely clear what impact a felony conviction may have on his football career. The terms of his contract with the Atlanta Falcons, NFL regulations or commissioner discretion may present an obstacle in the wake of a felony conviction. Third, given the nature of the allegations, the recovery of Vick’s reputation off the field may prove particularly challenging. Unlike Marv Albert, Vick may never recover the luster he once enjoyed.”