« The latest chapter in the California prison overcrowding saga | Main | Ninth Circuit addresses jurisdictional issues in face of appeal waiver »

July 25, 2007

Vick being sacked by the collateral consequences of an indictment

Earlier this week, as discussed here, USA Today had a long article discussing collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.  But, as the on-going Michael Vick story highlights, just a criminal indictment can have profound consequences for the accused.  The New York Times has this article covering the latest news on Vick:

The Atlanta Falcons were prepared to suspend quarterback Michael Vick for four games after he was indicted on federal felony charges related to a dogfighting operation before Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped in.  On Monday, Goodell ordered Vick not to appear at training camp and the team to hold off on disciplining him.

Arthur Blank, the Falcons’ owner, speaking publicly for the first time since Vick was indicted last week, said the team had begun drafting the letter about the suspension when Goodell decided that the National Football League would conduct an investigation into the charges against Vick....  Blank said that he never asked Vick if he was involved in dogfighting — he spoke to Vick about putting himself in bad situations, Blank said — and that he had not spoken to Vick since last Wednesday.

More of the latest Vick coverage can be found in the Washington Post and in USA TodayThough the Falcons and the NFL are apparently making lawful employment decisions, it is interesting to see that Vick's employer and the league in which he works are essentially treating him as guilty until he is proven innocent. 

These collateral consequences realities must ratchet up the pressure on Vick to plead guilty and cooperate with authorities even if he might have a real chance to contest the charges in court.  At this point, Vick's lawyers are probably telling him that a quick plea deal and cooperation — rather than protracted and costly legal proceedings — likely presents Vick with the best hope of getting on with his football career and his normal(?) life.

Some recent related Vick posts:

July 25, 2007 at 08:46 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e200e3981b6ead8833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Vick being sacked by the collateral consequences of an indictment:

Comments

"it is interesting to see that Vick's employer and the league in which he works are essentially treating him as guilty until he is proven innocent."

I think you're misstating what's going on here. The NFL, like most pro sports leagues, has its own standards of conduct. A player can be suspended simply because the league finds his behavior embarrassing, even though he has committed no crime. Obviously, if it turns out that he did commit a crime, the NFL's sanctions will only get worse.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 25, 2007 10:55:23 AM

Fair enough, Marc, though apparently it was the indictment that prompted the NFL to act. The dog fighting allegations made news months ago, but only the indictment prompted the NFL to act. I am not saying that the NFL is wrong to take the actions it did, but I think it is fair and accurate to say that Vick will have to prove his innocence in order to get his football career back to where it was before the indictment.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jul 25, 2007 11:03:42 AM

I think it's accurate to say that the Falcons are essentially treating Vick as if he were guilty, but I'm not sure that's true of the NFL. The 4-game suspension was a definite penalty & would've been based solely on the indictment. Since Vick doesn't get paid for training camp, preventing him from reporting for camp doesn't really penalize him financially (although, as a collateral consequence, it could cause him to lose his position as the starting QB, esp in light of the new head coach & new offensive scheme). I think it was a reasonable decision by the NFL, since Vick's presence would've attracted all sorts of protesters & an ensuing media circus at camp (both of which would alienate the fan base that wants to attend a peaceful camp).

I think the consequences of a guilty plea would be disastrous for Vick. I know many other current NFL players have criminal felony convictions, but I think Vick's status as a superstar QB will make it very different for him. Plus, it was reported that he told Goodell that he was not involved in the dogfighting events. If Vick lied to Goodell, I think Vick'll be crucified in order to set an example for the rest of the league. Goodell is relatively new to the job & has made player accountability a major part of his platform. He can't/won't let Vick off with even a yearlong suspension. I think a guilty plea, even with cooperation, will lead to the end of Vick's days in the NFL.

Posted by: PK | Jul 25, 2007 12:20:22 PM

I agree with PK for the most part. I likewise understand the NFL's position, after all, that's why they have bad conduct rules. Being in an extended legal battle, guilty or innocent, reflects poorly on the league and will prevent Vick from having anything even close to a successful season. The problem is Vick's incentives toward the NFL and the Federal Court system are not in sync. At the federal level, he probably has an incentive to cop a quick plea and get back to playing (if that’s even an option given his status). At the NFL level he probably has to completely exonerate himself to keep his job. Despite, the negative press, the NFL should stand behind a player professing his innocence until he’s convicted. When they do damage control by keeping him form doing his job, it is likely going to lead to an inconsistent resolution. Either Vick will (1) negotiate a settlement, plead out to something minor and possibly get to play again (thus damaging the game of football by having one more probable felon on the field); or (2) get suspended pending the outcome of the case, go for broke in court, get acquitted, and have missed a season of one of his prime playing years (thus making the league look unjust and premature). Obviously, if he’s found guilty no one is going to care if he misses this season.

There’s a kind of honor in standing behind one’s players, employees, or agents that seems to be lost in today’s world. So what if a few PETA rejects protest outside the Falcon’s stadium, maybe they’ll buy tickets. As lawyers we should all understand that prosecutors bring cases for reasons other than their belief in the guilt of the defendant (Duke anyone?). Powerful entities can minimize the effect of these charges on the wrongfully accused while retaining the full ability to punish and distance themselves from the individual later on. They should be encouraged to do so.

Posted by: CJT | Jul 25, 2007 3:27:25 PM

"it is interesting to see that Vick's employer and the league in which he works are essentially treating him as guilty until he is proven innocent."

Isn't that essentially what federal judges do everyday, Professor Berman, when they use acquitted conduct of convicted defendants to enhance sentences?

Posted by: Brian | Jul 25, 2007 4:34:47 PM

"Though the Falcons and the NFL are apparently making lawful employment decisions, it is interesting to see that Vick's employer and the league in which he works are essentially treating him as guilty until he is proven innocent."

Interesting, but really, so what?
http://volokh.com/posts/1161799064.shtml

Say you were considering hiring a babysitter, and you learned that she had been tried for and acquitted of child molestation, or for that matter of theft from an employer's home. Would you say "the only solutions are to treat her as if she were guilty or treat her as if she were innocent," and "prefer the latter"? I doubt it; I suspect you might want to either categorically refuse to hire her (which might be a shame if it turns out she really was innocent, but you don't want to run the risk), or at least investigate the matter further.

Posted by: | Jul 25, 2007 4:42:24 PM

"Say you were considering hiring a babysitter, and you learned that she had been tried for and acquitted of child molestation, or for that matter of theft from an employer's home. Would you say "the only solutions are to treat her as if she were guilty or treat her as if she were innocent," and "prefer the latter"? I doubt it; I suspect you might want to either categorically refuse to hire her (which might be a shame if it turns out she really was innocent, but you don't want to run the risk), or at least investigate the matter further."

That's a dumb anaolgy. The NFL and the Falcons aren't "considering hiring" Vick - they've already hired him. They've signed him, in fact, to a very lucrative contract, thus obligating him to perform his services for them and them, in turn, to pay him. I realize that contracts in the NFL are a joke and give the team and the league carte blanche authority to do whatever they want in a situation like this (good luck to the player, however, who asks to sit out and be paid!), so if he's suspended Vick probably doesn't have a contractual claim. But it seems that Vick's employers owe him a little something more than the parents in the babysitting hypo.

And, if nothing else, Vick isn't caring for Falcons owner Arthur Blank's kids.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 25, 2007 5:05:47 PM

Not the greatest analogy to Vick, but the point is that presumptions of innocence or guilt have very little relevance outside of the context of criminal punishment.

Posted by: | Jul 25, 2007 5:32:33 PM

So would you hire the kids from the Duke lacross team to babysit your kids? Seemed pretty guilty at the time.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 25, 2007 8:59:07 PM

"Not the greatest analogy to Vick, but the point is that presumptions of innocence or guilt have very little relevance outside of the context of criminal punishment."

A valid point, except that NFL players, unlike babysitters, have a union and explicit rights to appeal wrongful employment decisions (plus the money to actually use those rights). The NFL or the Falcons can certainly find Vick in violation of his contract/NFL policy based upon a lower standard of proof than required for a criminal conviction, but they still need to follow their internal processes. Essentially, w/in the context of the NFL, Vick does have a presumption of innocence until he is found "guilty" of violating his contract or NFL policy.

Posted by: PK | Jul 26, 2007 10:36:33 AM

A valid point, except that NFL players, unlike babysitters, have a union and explicit rights to appeal wrongful employment decisions (plus the money to actually use those rights).

That's interesting. I wonder what those rights are.

Posted by: | Jul 26, 2007 12:03:37 PM

I am not an expert on labor law, but here is a link to a description of the players' union's grievance procedure

http://www.nflpa.org/Faqs/NFLPA_Faqs.aspx#4

Posted by: S.cotus | Jul 26, 2007 12:55:17 PM

Interesting ESPN article on what Vick faces.

"I love the trials before Judge Hudson, but I hate the sentences," observed one experienced and highly regarded Richmond defense lawyer. "He will let you try your case, he will give you every chance to offer a defense, but if you're convicted, you will be facing serious problems at sentencing."

The lawyer, who requested anonymity because of a possible involvement in Vick's defense, explained that Hudson takes a unique approach to the guidelines that are a part of sentencing decisions in federal courts throughout the U.S.

"Most judges start at the minimum and move up or down in small increments. Judge Hudson starts at the midpoint of the guidelines spectrum and moves toward the maximum. The result can be surprisingly harsh."

Posted by: Ben D | Jul 26, 2007 3:04:34 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB