Lookingback: A sordid story

Two years ago, media trucks camped out in a parking lot across the street from Michael Vick's home in Smithfield, Va.
Two years ago, media trucks camped out in a parking lot across the street from Michael Vick's home in Smithfield, Va.

The details of Michael Vick's dogfighting past shine a light on where he has come from.

Posted: August 16, 2009

There are very few, if any, who don't know the general transgression of Michael Vick, the newest Philadelphia Eagle and former inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan.: dogfighting.

But to understand the polarized reaction to his signing, and to understand his role as an advocate for the Humane Society, the gruesome details of Vick's dogfighting history can help shine a light on where Vick has come from and, during his time in Philadelphia, what he has pledged to do.

On Dec. 10, 2007, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Vick to 23 months in prison and told the former star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, "You were instrumental in promoting, funding and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity."

When these allegations first arose in April 2007, Vick denied any involvement in a dogfighting ring, saying that he was "rarely" at the house in question, in Surry County, Va., and that he was unaware that it was being used for a criminal enterprise. He also blamed family members and friends for taking advantage of his generosity.

On July 17, 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Vick, breaking open the facade of his innocence in the same way Vick used to break through opposing defenses. In the indictment, Vick's name was mentioned 48 times, and the enterprise he funded was named Bad Newz Kennels, which had been in operation since 2001, the year the Falcons made Vick the No. 1 pick out of Virginia Tech.

As ESPN wrote the day after the 18-page indictment was revealed, it "accuses Vick of breeding and training fighting dogs, hosting dogfights, killing dogs considered unable to fight and traveling out of state for dogfights."

The details became horrific: electrocutions, hangings, and beatings.

"Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me, and I'm a person who faces this stuff every day," John Goodwin of the Humane Society told Fox News in 2007. "I was surprised to see that they were killing dogs by hanging them, and one dog was killed by slamming it to the ground. Those are extremely violent methods of execution - they're unnecessary and just sick."

Vick was no longer claiming innocence; he was too far past such hyperbole. Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Vick to stay away from the Falcons' training camp, and Nike, his key sponsor, suspended the release of his newest shoe.

A little over a month later, Vick announced that he would plead guilty to the charges and signed a plea agreement.

On Sept. 13, after pleading guilty and while awaiting sentencing, Vick tested positive for marijuana, violating the conditions of his release.

At his sentencing, Hudson also told Vick, "I'm not fully convinced you've accepted responsibility."

"It took Mike time to change," his agent, Joel Segal, said after Friday's news conference. "It was a slow change."

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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