RICHMOND, Va. - Disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick surrendered Monday three weeks before he was to be sentenced for a federal dogfighting charge, though a legal expert says it's unclear whether the move will soften his punishment.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10, but worked out a deal 'to voluntarily enter custody prior to his sentencing hearing,' according to a court document. Vick could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
The order filed in U.S. District Court added Vick was taken into custody 'based solely on his desire to begin his period of incarceration prior to his sentencing hearing and not because of violation of any condition of his bond.'
Vick is being held at Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw until his sentencing, U.S. marshals told The Associated Press. The mixed-gender facility houses about 450 inmates.
In an e-mail sent to the AP, the U.S. attorney's office confirmed Vick's surrender but declined further comment.
Lawyer Billy Martin explained the unexpected move as yet another step in Vick's public repentance for his involvement in a bloody dogfighting ring run on property he owned in rural Surry County. Vick pleaded guilty in August to a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge after his three co-defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
'From the beginning, Mr. Vick has accepted responsibility for his actions, and his self-surrender further demonstrates that acceptance,' Martin said in a statement. 'Michael wants to again apologize to everyone who has been hurt in this matter, and he thanks all of the people who have offered him and his family prayers and support during this time.'
But whether the move will lighten his sentence remains to be seen, said Ronald Bacigal, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in criminal law and criminal procedure.
'It's kind of like reading tea leaves knowing what's the exact impact on the judge,' Bacigal said.
Vick has a lot to overcome.
His troubles began in April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin seized dozens of dogs, most of them pit bulls, from the Surry County property, along with equipment linked to dogfighting.
Suspended indefinitely by the NFL without pay, Vick solemnly apologized for his actions before cameras in late August - only to gain more attention when he tested positive in September for marijuana, a violation of U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson's order that he stay clean in exchange for being allowed to be free.
Hudson ordered Vick confined to his home address between
10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with electronic monitoring and random drug testing.
Financial troubles have further sullied Vick's image: He's being sued for more than $4 million by banks claiming he defaulted on loans and could have to repay nearly $20 million in NFL signing bonus money.
Bacigal said Vick may have surrendered in an attempt to show the judge he's taken responsibility for his mistakes - but there are no real direct legal benefits to the move.
'I don't think there's any benefits except getting (the sentence) started,' Bacigal said. 'I would think he's purely thinking about timing as far as when he can get back to his football.'
Vick was behind a dogfighting enterprise known as Bad Newz Kennels, which operated since 2001 on the 15-acre property.
The gruesome details outlined in the federal indictment - dogs were hanged, drowned and electrocuted - fueled a public backlash against the Falcons star and cost him several lucrative endorsement deals, even before he agreed to plead guilty to the dogfighting conspiracy charge.