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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Michael Vick's Harsh Sentence

When Michael Vick was first charged with a federal conspiracy charge of bankrolling a dog-fighting operation, I was one of the first who said that I didn’t feel sorry for him. I felt like enough young, rich celebrities had betrayed their responsibilities to be role models. Charles Barkley once quipped that he was not a role model, but anytime someone is blessed with extraordinary talents, like Barkley, Vick and a host of others, people look up to them. This is what made Vick’s involvement in something that he knew was illegal, very troubling to me. To think that he would risk a lifetime of fame, fortune and now we see, his freedom, for an illegal, backyard, flea infested sideshow for, at best, bragging rights, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

Although I do not understand it, there must be a certain currency in the “hood,” where Vick and other celebrities come from that makes it difficult to extricate themselves from its ornamental allure. I can respect that if it is done on the right side of the law. However, Vick will have almost 700 days to contemplate why he wasn’t strong enough to, in Nancy Reagan’s words, “Just say no” to the temptations of street life that have lethal consequences. His “suicidal” behavior now jeopardizes his professional football career and has all but wiped out the remainder of his contract with the Atlanta Falcons, which was valued at $130 million.

So do I feel sorry for Michael Vick? Well I didn’t until U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, sentenced him to more time than was recommended by the prosecutors following Vick’s guilty plea. Despite a plea agreement that recommended a 12-18 month sentence, prosecutors agreed with the pre-sentence report, which called for a harsher guideline of 18-24 months, and recommended that Vick be sentenced at the higher end of the guideline. It appears that the prosecution back-peddled from its plea agreement with Vick because he reportedly tested positive for marijuana use while on bond and then lied about it and failed to be truthful regarding his involvement in the death of a number of dogs. Is that all he did after losing a contract valued at $130 million and having the Falcons sue him for more than $20 million in bonus money that he received after signing his contract in 2004?

I certainly do not endorse lying to Federal officials or using marijuana, but for Pete’s sake other high-profile individuals have committed more serious violations of the law and received less time/no time in jail. Does anyone outside of PETA believe that Vick’s actions come anywhere near the seriousness of Oliver North’s crimes, or Michael Milken’s crimes, or the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s or the torture of foreign enemies by the CIA?

North was illegally involved in arms sales to Iran and used the proceeds to fund a secret war in Nicaragua. He was given a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours community service. However, he was later exonerated on appeal. Milken was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was released after serving only 22 months. And to this day, I am unaware of anyone serving a single day in prison for the savings and loan scandal, which by some accounts cost the U.S. taxpayers over $150 billion.

All countries are aware of the Geneva Convention, which attempted to bring some civility to war after the horrors of the Holocaust and WWII. The Third and Fourth Geneva Convention, along with Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Torture Convention), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibit the use of torture to extract information from POWs. The use of torture also violates U.S. law, so why is there a collective shrug on Capital Hill after the CIA admitted to torturing terrorist suspects and then destroying the evidence?

All four of the above cases had (have) the potential of either destroying America; through war or financial disaster, or placing our soldiers at great physical harm during times of capture, so Vick’s offense looks tame in comparison. And if we could trace the origins of America’s laws against dog-fighting, it probably has less to do with cruelty to animals than it does with the victors not paying taxes on their proceeds. As most of you probably know, bookie gambling (illegal lottery) has been around for many years. It is illegal; not because a lottery is illegal, since many states participate in one, but because the bookies do not withhold Federal taxes when distributing winnings.

It’s about the money, or in this case tax revenue, but back to Vick: I will suggest three possible punishments that would have been appropriate for Vick and his entourage: 1) a fine for not paying taxes on their earnings, plus interest; 2) a letter of rebuke from the court for cruelty to animals, plus 80 hours of public service working with the animal-advocacy group, PETA; or 3) letters of congratulations from citizens around the country who are terrified of vicious pit bulls.

I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but America sanctions the murder of 1,000,000 (1 million) unborn children every year, so I’m too busy feeling sorry for the children that didn’t make it to feel sorry for a vicious, dead pit bull. I have also been able to muster some sympathy for Vick as well.

To be continued…

1 comment:

writenowinc2000 said...

I don't think Vick's sentence is too harsh at all. However, I do understand the confusion over the excellent examples David has cited.

Taking abortion off of the table -- we can argue ad infinitum if it is the murder of children or a woman's choice -- it does seem as if the sentence Michael Vick received was unfair. After all, he just killed, tortured and got dogs raped, so who cares?

The problem is that this is a federal offense. When Vick started transporting dogs across state lines and bringing in others, for the sole purpose of gambling on dog fights, that is a federal offense. Then when you enter into a plea deal, and repeatedly lie about using drugs and going about your personal rehabilitation, well, that's a problem if you do it before you get sentenced. Being that stupid should get you another six months to a year on general principles.

As we all know, and it's been cited often, Al Capone didn't get sent to jail or prison for a single murder. He got sent to Alcatraz because he didn't pay his federal income taxes. That's how the federal government operates.

Oliver North was found guilty of lying to Congress, but got off on a technicality. Michael Milken, to his credit, has rehabilitated himself if not his image, and has thrown himself into the prevention, treatment and cure of prostate cancer. In both cases, as is true with Vick, they all had excellent lawyers. If Attorney Bill Martin couldn't get a lower sentence for Vick, no one could. Attorney Martin was merely mitigating some significant damage.

Here's hoping that, like Milken and North, Vick is able to rehabilitate himself and his bank account. Here's also hoping he's a wiser and humbler man.