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Settling of Vick case win for all
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Granted, pro football player Michael Vick took a bit of time to take responsibility for his illegal actions in connection with a dog-fighting operation. Vick got off to a bad start by being less than forthcoming during the investigation, but in the end he admitted his mistakes and thereby did the right thing.

Michael Vick is the Atlanta Falcons football team star quarterback who was arrested for "funding and promoting" a dog-fighting operation at his home in Virginia. His case dragged on initially for several months while he tried to deny the allegations, but in the long run he came clean about his misdeeds.

Michael Vick, as is the case with other celebrities, enjoys both popularity and high visibility in our society. It seems to many people that the legal system treats celebrities with a double standard. In too many instances, people in those positions have the ability to manipulate the legal system, turning their cases into highly publicized trials that look more like a circus act than a legitimate use of our judicial system. Surely, the judges have a lot to do with what they allow in their courtrooms, but the antics all start with the wealthy defendants and their respective attorneys.

The crime to which Vick pled guilty is a federal felony. In California, this kind of crime is covered by both state and federal statutes. Police in Stanislaus County are aware that illegal dog fighting takes place here as well, and since it is a sick and inhumane "sport," they actively investigate and seek maximum punishment for violators. To be clear, anyone who engages in dog fighting, whom bets on these events, or who is merely present at a dog fight will be arrested if caught.

Dog-fighting circles are tight-knit and secretive. And since this activity involves betting, it is very lucrative for the criminals involved. A society that, through neglect or apathy, allows dog fighting to continue unabated is an unhealthy one that cannot enjoy a thoroughly high quality of life. In short, how we treat animals says a lot about our values, our morals and our integrity. Fortunately, dog fighting in this county is relatively limited. We intend to stamp it out.

As you can see, I am really making two points here. First, there is the matter of personal responsibility. Michael Vick has not handled his situation perfectly, but his recent actions give us hope. There has been a growing trend in this society to do whatever possible to avoid responsibility for one's actions. It is not whether certain behaviour is right or wrong; the issue for too many people is whether they can get away with what they have done.

Michael Vick could have tied up the legal system for months, if not years, with antics that are quite legally permissive, but which were certainly not intended by the framers of our constitution. Recall the O.J. Simpson trial, the system manipulations by the various high-level government officials accused of criminal wrongdoing, and other high profile examples during the last 10-15 years.

Vick did not have much to gain by waiving his right to a trial and pleading not guilty. A trial by jury could have ended with a hung jury, acquittal, or possibly a guilty finding. If found guilty by a jury, the maximum prison sentence for Vick would have been 18 to 23 months - the same amount of time that a judge could impose based on the voluntary guilty plea. Yet, Vick did the right thing, choosing not to play the game at all, thereby forfeiting his chances for beating the charges. He certainly could have afforded the costs of mounting a high profile, no-holds barred legal defense. Vick apologized, stated that he was wrong and that he regretted his actions.

Dog fighting is a vulgar activity, driven by a sick, dark psychological manifestation in some people. Most of us cannot understand the attraction to it, and even more of us are not even aware that such crude and crass activity takes place at all. But it does, and Vick's case will help draw attention to the problem. Public awareness is a big part of the solution to this crime.

Now that we have a popular and well-known celebrity standing tall to accept what he's got coming for his crimes, we finally have an example of the right thing to do. Instead of a repetition of the norm, which is to take cover, tell lies, have the attorney lie for them and to do all else possible to avoid taking responsibility for one's actions, Vick did the right thing. I am not a member of the Michael Vick fan club, but I certainly appreciate the manner in which he handled the settlement of his criminal case. He tells us that dog fighting is wrong and, at the same time, he has shown us that he is not above the law and accepts the consequences for his actions.

Michael Vick may spend up to 23 months behind bars. However, when it is all over, he will not be known as a liar, a legal system manipulator, or cover-up artist. The taxpayers will also be spared huge legal costs that would have accompanied the lengthy trial. The settling of Vick's case is a win for everyone, himself included, and it casts a ray of hope that the legal system will treat celebrities the same as everyone else.