Monday, December 10, 2007

Drop State Charges against Vick—The Public Gouged it’s Pound of Flesh Out of Him with Fed Sentencing
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Even the most rabid Michael Vick loathers can’t argue with the toss the book sentence that Federal Judge Henry E. Hudson hurled at the tumbled former football great. The 23 month sentence he got exceeded the recommendation by federal prosecutors, the sentences his co-defendants got, and the average sentence for this type of crime that’s spelled out in federal sentencing guidelines. Given the intense hysteria of legions of animal lovers at Vick, he’ll likely serve the bulk of his jail time. But the punishment is overly harsh. Vick is a first time offender. He expressed remorse, publicly apologized, shelled out nearly a million bucks for the upkeep of the impounded animals, and likely won’t play another down in the NFL. Vick’s life and career is wrecked. The feds and the public have more than gouged their pound of flesh out of him.

That’s exactly why Virginia’s Surrey County Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter should do the right legal and personal thing and drop the state prosecution of Vick. The trial is currently scheduled for April 2. In fact, state charges should never have been brought. This was a federal case from day one. The evidence of conspiracy and trafficking in dog fighters across state lines was overwhelming. Professional dog fighting almost always involves interstate transit of the dogs to the fighting matches and events.

There’s also the troubling fact that while state prosecutors talk a good game about cracking down on the dog fighting top cats, they are still notoriously lax in prosecuting, let alone tossing the book at many of them. The near textbook example of that is the case involving the wealthy and legendary dog fighting father and son kingpins Floyd and Guy Boudreaux in Louisiana. Two years after their arrest on dog fighting related charges, they are still walking free with no sign that the state is sprinting to court to get them in a docket. PETA or the Humane Society of the U.S. that turned out their throngs to curse and wave signs at Vick in front of federal court in Virginia have given absolutely no indication that they have or will mount a national crusade to nail them, or that they have even raised a peep nationally about the glacial pace of the state’s prosecution of them. There was a brief article on the Humane Society’s web site on the case two years ago, and that’s it.

The stiff federal sentence dumped on Vick amply sent the message that a rich, famous, sports glitz figure won’t be treated any differently than the average Joe that breaks the law. But none of that means much to PETA, and it certainly didn’t mean anything to state prosecutors. Despite their weak and disingenuous protest that they went after Vick solely because he broke state law, they didn’t. It was politics and race. They figured that no one could dare say that race or celebrity had anything to do with the state indictment of Vick since four of the six grand jurors are African-American and were not in celebrity awe of him.

The race and celebrity card in reverse ploy doesn't mean much. It defies belief to think that if Vick had been an average African-American guy that the black jurors or Poindexter would have wasted countless hours pouring over his case and ultimately leveled an indictment at him. The fed charges were heavy duty enough and there was every sign that he would not waltz away with the standard celebrity pass hand slap sentence. It meant that Vick’s punishment would have more than fit the magnitude of his crimes. That should have ended the matter for the state, and in most cases it does.

Fed and state officials almost always maintain a rigid church and state separation when it comes to prosecuting cases. It's not just because they fear the potential danger of double jeopardy in a dual prosecution that they stay off of each others toes. It's because legal overkill is wasteful, time-consuming and cost ineffective.

The rare times that fed and state prosecutors stray onto each others turf is when the state fails to get a conviction in high profile politically or legally compelling racial cases that stokes public rage and scream for federal action. The Rodney King beating case and the old 1960s civil rights related racial murder cases are textbook examples of that. The feds retry these cases but on separate civil rights charges. The prosecutors that do the straying almost always are the feds. Even Beltway sniper John Muhammad, though there was strong suspicion that he left a trail of murder victims in other states, the states deferred prosecution of him to Virginia and Maryland. Muhammad's conviction and death sentence rendered another state's prosecution of him moot.

With Vick, the same rule and logic should apply. There's no compelling interest or reason to pile on another prosecution of Vick. Fairness and common legal sense must prevail. Virginia should drop charges against Vick, and drop them now.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)


Anonymous said...

If you look at it, Michael wasn't treated fairly. He has been sentenced by the federal court and possibly the state, to were as the co-defendents has only been sentenced by one government agency. I don't condon what Mike did to the least because I am a pitbull owner and took great lengths to ensure they are very well mannered. I believe he should have gotten the same sentence everyone else received, but I think he got more time is because he WAS a pro athlete.

Pitbull owner.

MustangSallie said...

23 months compared to the 60 months he could have received?! SORRY, Vick was treated very fairly! You are forgetting, he did commit a CRIME! The man had EVERYTHING, yet still participated in illegal activity?! What in the hell does that say about black folks?! Please tell me, because I've been asked that question here so many times in my all white office. "what's wrong with your people?" I'm tired of defending "my people" from their stupidity. Vick is just one person, yet whites think we ALL are never satisfied.

sandmadd said...

For the record, I'm self-identified as black, described by others as a "race woman" and an animal rights advocate. I see no contradiction between the two stands. However, because humans have free will, I have zero tolerance for violence against innocent beings-human and non-human. Michael Vick is lucky that he got just a few years behind bars. If justice were to be meted out by the American public (and it isn't just whites who are outraged over Vick's crimes) there would be mobs descending on Vick to "wet him down and electrocute him", just as he did those dogs.

Anonymous said...

Your reasoning makes no sense. How does race figure into this? If he killed a person and was convicted, would that be racism too? I don't buy it. He escaped his childhood. He is no longer poor. He can afford whatever lifestyle he chooses, and he CHOSE dogfighting. From what I understand, the fighting and racketeering charges are federal, and really deal with the illegal business aspect of it. State laws govern animal abuse and from that perspective, I don't think he got anywhere near what he deserves. I think he should be forced to fund a shelter for abused pit bulls. I would prefer that he be forced to help the very breed he abused so badly. Jail time won't help abused dogs, but since our justice system does not look to appropriate remedies, time is all one can hope for. I have no problem with the state levying additional charges. If someone treated my dog like me it's the same as murder. The scary thing about this case is that he is not sorry. He is only sorry he was caught. Poor, poor Michael Vick-tim.

mustangsallie said...

Some of you talk/write like PETA FOOLS! When I think of an innocent life being "wet down and electrocuted", I think of the Holocaust. When I think of an innocent life, being hung, I think of Jim Crow Laws.

Animal abuse is just that: ANIMAL ABUSE! What amazes me, you PETA people have so much concern/love for animals YET, if a new drug came out today, with the potential of curing cancer, but possibly having deadly side affects, you would want that new drug tested on your dog, NOT your child, first! Dog fighting has long been a sport imbedded in deep south history. Vick didn't invent this, he just toke a page from history.

Vick is no saint, nor victim, but as he stated, he is NOT an evil beast either. He made a very bad decision on what type of "sport" or "entertainment" to get involve with. Vick didn't go into a mall and shoot innocent people doing holiday shopping, he didn't go into a church and shoot innocent people worshipping, he didn't step on a college campus and shoot classmates, I can go on and on and on!

You PETA people need to get a damn life!

Oh, as far as being "self-identified as black" really, you've been "bamboozle, hoodwink, and lead astray!!"

Lord Hannibal said...

Vick got off easy. He lied to prosecutors even after he agreed to a plea deal AND flunked a drug test when he was on bail.

Hudson could have and should have given Vick at least four years.

sandmadd said...

In response to mustangsallie's comments, I hope we can go beyond this idea that people for animal rights are against human progress. If you go to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website, you'll see that the kind of medicine these doctors propose-respecting animal rights- results in BETTER health for humans than the current model of medicine.