Vick plea aimed at early release

Former NFL star Michael Vick plans to plead guilty to state dogfighting charges in an effort to get an early release from prison and enter a halfway house, court papers show.

If the plea deal goes as planned, it would help Vick overcome several obstacles in his goal to return to professional football next year.

Attorneys for the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback filed court papers in Surry County Circuit Court seeking permission to let Vick plead guilty via videoconference from the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., where he is serving a 23-month term for his role in an interstate dogfighting conspiracy.

Vick, 28, pleaded guilty to a federal charge in August 2007. He still faces single felony counts of dogfighting and cruelty to animals in state court. Each charge carries up to five years in prison, but Vick is not expected to serve additional prison time, according to a source close to the case who has seen details of the plea deal.

Officials said a hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 30, when Vick's lawyers will ask a judge for permission to take the plea by videoconference. No specific date for the plea itself has been officially set.

The papers, filed Oct. 15, say Federal Bureau of Prisons policy requires that an inmate resolve any pending charges before being allowed entry into a halfway house.

Vick is scheduled to be released July 20, and the soonest he could enter a program is six months before that.

His attorneys declined to answer questions Tuesday but issued a statement.

“Mr. Vick is committed to taking responsibility for his actions,” the statement said.

“He is hopeful that, through this motion, the trial court will allow him to finally resolve these matters and put the charges behind him so that he can begin to focus on his future and to prepare to be reunited with his family,” the statement concludes.

Prosecutor Gerald Poindexter did not return calls for comment. The court filings indicate that he has agreed to the plea deal.

Vick and his attorneys have made it clear that he plans to seek reinstatement to the National Football League. Vick has been under indefinite suspension by the league. The Falcons, where Vick starred for six seasons, have said they have no interest in Vick.

A transfer to a halfway house would make it easier for Vick to seek reinstatement to the NFL.

In a halfway house, Vick would be free to seek employment and meet with the NFL and any interested teams, but he would be monitored 24 hours a day until he completes his sentence.