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November 19, 2007

Vick surrenders early; is it a good move?

Michael Vick is renown for his moves on the football field, but I am wondering what folks think about his latest legal move: as detailed in this New York Times article, as part of "an apparent attempt to speed his return to football, Michael Vick began serving his prison sentence Monday on federal dogfighting charges, more than three weeks before he was scheduled to be sentenced."  This Atlanta Journal-Constitution article includes this additional information:

From the beginning, Mr. Vick has accepted responsibility for his actions and his self surrender further demonstrates that acceptance," Billy Martin, one of Vick's lawyers, 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."

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson of Richmond, who will sentence Vick on Dec. 10, signed an order Monday to allow the U.S. Marshal's Service to take Vick into custody. Vick, who surrendered to authorities in Richmond, was put in custody "based solely on his desire to begin his period of incarceration prior to his sentencing hearing and not because of a violation of any condition of his bond," Hudson wrote.

I'd be especially interested to hear from experienced federal defense attorneys about whether they think this is a good move by Vick.

UPDATE:  Experienced defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt writing here at TalkLeft does not quite understand this move by Vick.

November 19, 2007 at 06:09 PM | Permalink


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There are just some people who are going to got to jail, and they would be better to get it over with. Vick may well be probably one. I've advised people to get in and out, and I might have advised him that. Depends on the situation of course.

Posted by: David in NY | Nov 19, 2007 6:31:17 PM

i have done it before. in state cases, your client stays in a local jail and close to his family for the pre-sentencing period and until the county sheriff takes them to the State. you get the benefit of starting/ending sooner, and more local time to be closer to family, and away from harder thugs.


Posted by: christopher pagan | Nov 19, 2007 7:22:22 PM

It is a good move by Vick. I once represented a "cooperating" drug courier who was arrested when 18, and entered a plea when she was 19. I told her to start serving her sentence and get it over with. She didn't want to. Her cooperation ended when she was 21. She was 23 when she completed service of her prison sentence. She was 26 when she got off supervised release. She is now 35 and recently told me that she should have followed my advice. In criminal defense the concept of buyers remorse comes up alot.

Posted by: KAY | Nov 19, 2007 7:30:10 PM

You have to remember that this also avoids another "perp walk," as Vick will get transported to his sentencing in a van with other inmates coming from that jail, away from the media.

Posted by: Steve | Nov 20, 2007 8:24:39 AM

I do not think that reporting early will impact his sentence one way or the other. However, will the B.O.P. give him the same "credit" for self reporting to the Marshal as it would for self reporting to the Institution? If not, self reporting to the Marshal might make a difference between Vick going to a prison camp versus a low or possibly the difference between a low and a medium.

Posted by: doug | Nov 20, 2007 8:32:32 AM

I made this prediction/recommendation in a Slate piece back in August when he was arrested. http://www.slate.com/id/2172798

Posted by: Harlan Protass | Nov 20, 2007 9:44:16 AM

It was clearly the right move. For a pro athlete, every day off the field is a chunk of his career he can never get back. Since there's no scenario where he would avoid prison time entirely, he might as well get it over with. He probably should have done it sooner.

As it is, if you assume a 1-year sentence, he will have lost at least two full seasons. For a position so dependent on speed, agility and timing, that's awfully tough to come back from. He still needs to apply to the league for re-instatement, and he still needs to find a team that would want him.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Nov 20, 2007 9:56:28 AM

I disagree with those who think this is a good move -- first, his security classification will possibly be impacted. Those who self surrender to begin a sentence are given lower salient factor scores -- he could possibly, depending on the overall length of sentence, be facing a medium security facility rather than a minimum security facility. Secondly, he wil now go onto the "con air shuffle" which could find him being transported all over the country, through the central facility in Oklahoma City, and spending short periods of time in unpleasant local transient facilities where no routines can be established. I am an AFPD and have talked to thousands of clients who have been through this and they uniformly did not like the experience.
On the other hand, if he is likely to serve a one year sentence at the same facility that he turned himself into, then it isn't a bad thing -- but this assumes a low sentence and a BOP designation to that facility. It wasn't worth the gamble, in my opinion.

Posted by: Art | Nov 20, 2007 10:13:04 AM

If it is true that someone who surrenders early ends up with a worse security rating than someone who surrenders on time, this is perverse. Surely surrendering early indicates a desire to get it over with, and hence a lower risk of trying to escape.

Furthermore, someone who is sophisticated enough to surrender early is also going to be sophisticated enough to realize that an escape would increase the ultimate amount of time they are going to spend in prison.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Nov 20, 2007 10:57:55 AM

It is true that those who self surrender are given a lower security score, but isn't that exactly what Vick did? I don't see how he doesn't get the benefit of "self surrender," considering that he was out on bond and voluntarily reported to begin his prison sentence. In my mind, I think the BOP will still give him the benefit of “self reporting.”

Posted by: DEJ | Nov 20, 2007 11:23:26 AM

Interesting, on the security classification and transportation questions. I've usually had it post-sentence, where the question was whether to remain out pending appeal. It's often better to go in at that point, especially where the best, or only, shot is at a shorter sentence, not at eliminating one entirely.

Surely, the BOP ought to treat this as a self-surrender as well, but ... , well, it is the BOP we're talking about.

Posted by: David in NY | Nov 20, 2007 2:53:02 PM

The reason that he reported early has little to do with his sentence. It relates to his ability to return to football. Vick will likely get a sentence of 18 to 24 months. Many people assume (I'm one of them) that the NFL will have Vick sit out an additional year before he can be reinstated.

If he gets 18 months, he'll be out in May, 2009. Assume you tack on another year of ineligibility -- that is May, 2010. That is early enough for him to participate in minicamps and other team events, making him more marketable.

If he started his sentence in January or February and gets 18 months, his extra year of ineligibility would mean that he might miss parts of training camp -- as well as all of the voluntary minicamps.

If anything, he should have done this when he pleaded guilty.

Posted by: Henry | Nov 20, 2007 3:26:54 PM

It's pretty telling (of what, I don't know) when a person VOLUNTARILY gives up spending the holidays with his family, and reports to a COUNTY LOCKUP to begin his sentence. In 18 years in the federal criminal justice system, I've never seen it before.

Posted by: Got a new boss f/k/a anonymous | Nov 20, 2007 8:41:45 PM

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