Animal-rights groups want Vick to serve nearly 5 years
It's hard to tell whether animal-advocacy groups will sway the judge overseeing Michael Vick's sentencing on dogfighting, law professors said.

Eleven animal-welfare organizations jointly filed court documents this week recommending that Vick, a Newport News native and benched NFL quarterback, serve four years and nine months in jail and pay to rehabilitate the fighting dogs.

"I think the judge will read them. I think he'll consider them, along with everyone else," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor. "I think what will matter the most is the recommendation on sentencing made by U.S. attorney."

Vick, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy dogfighting charge Aug. 27, will be sentenced Dec. 10. He and three co-defendants were accused of operating Bad Newz Kennels, a dogfighting operation, out of property Vick owned on Moonlight Road in Surry County.

Vick faces up to five years in jail, but his plea deal mentions a sentence of between a year and a year and a half. The judge will have the final say.

This week, the animal-welfare organizations painted a gruesome picture of dogfighting and suggested the pit bulls used in dogfighting could be rehabilitated, an estimated $10 million cost.

What kind of impact the documents will have on U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is unclear.

"This is a different case. It's so in the spotlight," said Anne Coughlin, a law professor at the University of Virginia. "Most guilty pleas followed by sentencing are going to proceed without a great deal of scrutiny from the press. This is a case where the judge will be in the spotlight. One would imagine that he would give scrupulous attention to all the views that are expressed. Judges always do that, but he is under additional pressure.

"This is a good solid judge, a good solid person," Coughlin continued. "He will do what he usually does, and he will go out of his way to make sure he pays attention to all the filings."

Hudson signed an order accepting the animal groups' filings without the defendants' objection.

That doesn't surprise Coughlin, because objecting would bring the ugly picture of dogfighting to the forefront again, she said. Attorneys likely won't object until sentencing, she said.