National Football League all-star quarterback Michael Vick has been sentenced to 23 months in prison for his role in a dog fighting conspiracy that involved gambling and killing pit bulls.
|Animals rights activists protest outside of Michael |
Vick's sentencing [AFP]
The suspended Atlanta Falcons star could have been sentenced up to five years by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.
Vick, who turned himself in November 19 in anticipation of his sentence, was wearing a black-and-white striped prison suit.
After Vick apologised to the court and his family, Hudson told him, "You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you.''
"Yes, sir," Vick answered.
Vick acknowledged he used "poor judgment" and added, "I'm willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions."
Rules governing time off for good behavior could reduce Vick's prison stay by about three months, resulting in a mid-2009 release.
Before the hearing started, Michael Vick's brother, Marcus Vick, sat with his right arm around their mother, comforting her as she buried her head in her hands and wept.
Vick pleaded guilty in August, admitting he bankrolled the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting operation and helped kill six to eight dogs.
He has been held at a jail in Warsaw, Virginia, since he voluntarily began serving his sentence.
In a plea agreement, he admitted bankrolling the dogfighting ring on his 15-acre property in rural southeastern Virginia and helping kill pit bulls that did not perform well in test fights.
He also admitted providing money for bets on the fights but said he never shared in any winnings.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank called the sentencing "another step in his legal journey."
"This is a difficult day for Michael's family and for a lot of us, including many of our players and fans who have been emotionally invested in Michael over the years," Blank said.
"We sincerely hope that Michael will use this time to continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life, and we wish him well in that regard."
At a news conference after pleading guilty last summer, Vick apologised to the NFL, the Falcons and youngsters who viewed him as a role model and vowed: "I will redeem myself."
A six-year veteran of the NFL and three-time selection to annual Pro Bowl all-star game, Vick was suspended without pay by the league and lost all his lucrative endorsement deals.