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July 31, 2007

Vick now having to play defense after co-defendant cooperates

Though still only a few weeks since his indictment, the federal prosecution of Michael Vick and others on dog-fighting charges is already a sentencing story because of one co-defendant's plea.  As detailed in this article, as "part of a plea agreement, Tony Taylor pledged to fully cooperate with the government in its prosecution of Vick and two other men accused of running an interstate dogfighting enterprise."  Here are more sentencing-related details from this article:

The plea deal requires Taylor to testify against Vick and his two remaining co-defendants if called upon to do so.  Taylor cannot get a stiffer sentence or face any new charges based on any new information he provides, according to terms of the agreement....

Taylor, who will be sentenced Dec. 14, said he was not promised any specific sentence in return for his cooperation with the government.  He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000, although federal sentencing guidelines likely will call for less. The range will be determined by the court's probation office, but the judge can depart from that range if he finds aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

Anyone have any guesses about what sentence Taylor is likely to get?  I'd suspect his lawyers think this deal and his cooperation makes a term of probation possible, but that's certainly not a given.  And it seems that the evidence being provided by Taylor reduces the chances that Vick might be able to get off with probation if he were to go the plea route.

Some related Vick posts:

July 31, 2007 at 08:29 AM | Permalink


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There is no way Taylor goes to jail. Whats the base level for dogfighting?

Posted by: DAG | Jul 31, 2007 9:21:02 AM

The range will be determined by the court's probation office, but the judge can depart from that range if he finds aggravating or mitigating circumstances.

I like this functional description of the Sentencing Guidelines.

Posted by: | Jul 31, 2007 11:55:12 AM

"but the judge can depart from that range if he finds aggravating or mitigating circumstances."

Assuming that this is an accurate description of how the Guidelines operate post-Booker (and it is probably more accurate in some Circuits than others), doesn't the "if" clause in this description just prove that the Sixth Amendment problem is alive and kicking post-Booker?

Posted by: DEJ | Jul 31, 2007 12:53:25 PM

DEJ, the answer depends on whether the description is accurate as a formal matter or as a substantive matter.

The courts of appeals' rulings on the crack/powder disparity tend to show that the Sixth Amendment is alive and well---they hold that judges may not deviate from the Guidelines on the basis of "categorical" disagreement with "Guidelines policy," but they may do so on the basis of "individual" "case-specific" considerations. Sounds a lot like departures.

Cutting against the notion that the Sixth Amendment problem is still out there are the statements in Rita that (1) the Guidelines are not entitled to any "legal" presumption of reasonableness (Breyer's linguistic contortions on this issue are shameful, but maybe he's trying not to let the cat out of the bag in Kimbrough/Gall), and (2) that a district court's choice of sentence is reviewed for something similar to abuse of discretion.

So the Sixth Amendment is potentially alive and well. Hopefully the Supreme Court will definitively kill it in Kimbrough/Gall.

Posted by: | Jul 31, 2007 1:05:29 PM

From the perspective of a layman, I find it incredible and improbable that Mr. Taylor expects no preference for his testimony against Mr. Vick. Could there be a sealed plea agreement?

Posted by: JJ | Aug 1, 2007 12:40:16 PM

JJ, federal cooperators often (always?) get no promise of a specific sentence--that is for the Judge to decide. The prosecutors could recommend a certain sentence, but there is no guarantee that it would be the actual sentence given. In addition, some US Attorney's offices refuse to recommend any specific sentence.

Posted by: anon | Aug 2, 2007 4:13:08 AM

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