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August 20, 2007

The nitty-gritty on sentencing in the Michael Vick case

Analysis of the Michael Vick dog-fighting case is now turning seriously to sentencing issues.  This USA Today article highlights some the sentencing terms of the plea deal entered last Friday by two of Vick's co-defendants.  Here are a few particulars:

In the signed plea agreements for [Purnell] Peace and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, both entered guilty pleas to a one-count indictment charging them with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor an animal fighting venture.

In both agreements, attorneys for the defense and prosecution agreed to a level 13 sentencing guidelines. In the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual, that means a recommendation of 12-18 months' imprisonment.  Initially, both sides agreed to a level 15 guidelines: 18-24 months. The court papers said that was reduced to level 13 due to the "acceptance of responsibility" by Peace and Phillips in entering guilty pleas. Both sides also agreed that "aggravating circumstances" in the case warranted an "upward departure" in the sentencing guidelines, citing "the victimization of execution of pit bull dogs."

Meanwhile, in this new Findlaw article, Mark Allenbaugh and Frank Larry analyze "Michael Vick's Sentencing Gamble: How Much Time Can He Expect?"  Here is a bit of their analysis of how Vick's celebrity status could matter:

Of course, celebrity status is not formally a factor in sentencing considerations.  But it may nevertheless play a role.

If the Guidelines yield a final offense level that allows for alternative sentences such as probation, house arrest, community confinement, intermittent confinement, or community service, Vick's situation may be unusual. For instance, house arrest can be luxurious for a celebrity defendant, whereas a celebrity's community service — for instance, a PETA ad by Vick expressing remorse and publicizing the harms of dogfighting — could be more effective than that of an ordinary defendant. 

Vick's celebrity status also means that his formal sentence will only be part of his punishment: He may lose his career, or at least valuable years of it, as well. Will the Court take that into account? It's unlikely. While the Guidelines generally strive for justice and fairness, they don't take into account collateral consequences particular defendants suffer in their lives due to pleading guilty or being convicted, or due to imprisonment.

Some related Vick sentencing posts:

August 20, 2007 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

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Vick's celebrity status also means that his formal sentence will only be part of his punishment: He may lose his career, or at least valuable years of it, as well. Will the Court take that into account? It's unlikely. While the Guidelines generally strive for justice and fairness, they don't take into account collateral consequences particular defendants suffer in their lives due to pleading guilty or being convicted, or due to imprisonment.

This is an interesting thought, but if we took those things into account regularly, the rich and powerful would get punished less harshly. They could always argue to the court that they stand to lose more than the average person.

The argument could also be turned around against some people---they have no community ties, no job, no reputation to uphold, so the only meaningful sanction the state can impose is prison time and lots of it.

Also, Vick is 27. Any 27-year-old facing prison time will lose a few of years of his life during which he has the greatest potential to earn money or otherwise benefit from life. A 27-year-old at the beginning or middle of any promising career will likely lose that.

Unless we're prepared to start treating sentencing like divorce settlements and start by asking what the defendant is "accustomed to," then this sort of thing probably shouldn't be considered.

Posted by: | Aug 20, 2007 12:07:02 PM

First of all wrong is wrong and we all have are responsible for our choices that we make. We somehow in this intellectual, advance and judgemental society forgot that all human mankind have issues that they struggle with. I leave this with you Jesus said about those who brought the woman who was caught committing in the act of adultery "IF NETHER OF YOU HAVE SINNED BE THE FIRST TO CAST STONE. Some of Americans who are in authority have become biggots, arrogant, and do have not empathy whatsoever because trouble have not knocked on there door or they just have not been exposed. They are self centered and have no conscious for redemption or second chances. They have never had pressure of lack, struggle, and danger because you would break like the weak people they are. There foundation has never been tested by the pressure and struggles that the forces of the real world bring. They hide behind there acculates and accomplishments because in reality they would crumple when the storm comes. It is easy pointing out a problem that is normaal and average but to go beyond that is offer aid to resolve the problem without glorifying yourself on CNN for crditablilty.
LEADERSHIP is the art of influencing and directing men and women in such a way to obtain their willing obedience to accomplish goals, priorities, deadlinesm and missions. To determine how effective your leadership in authority is to take what you have and duplicate it in someone else and get the same results. Trust and confidence is the foundation that holds it together. There confidence is exposing someone else to prop themselves up. They are simply WEAK AND CANNOT IDENTIFY.

Posted by: | Dec 11, 2007 9:48:20 AM

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