Michael Vick officially pleads guilty to dogfighting charges

by Brian Mooar
NBC News

Suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick went before a federal judge Monday morning to plead guilty to dog fighting charges that could eventually lead to prison time.

As Vick arrived at the  federal courthouse in Richmond there was an outpouring of emotion.

Fans and detractors alike jammed the sidewalk outside the court for a brief hearing that may well be the most important performance in the NFL superstar's career.

Inside the court and at a news conference afterwards Vick took responsibility for his actions.

"I accepted the responsibility for my actions and what I did, and now I have to pay the consequences for it, but in a sense I think it will help me as a person.  I have a lot to think about in the next year or so," Vick told reporters after entering his plea.

Vick admitted to playing a role in the underground world of dogfighting in court documents released before the hearing.
 
He says he was present when dogs that didn't do well were killed, but he didn't admit to killing dogs or gambling himself.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for eight to 12 months behind bars.

Vick's attorney is hoping for leniency.

"We hope Judge Hudson will see real Mike Vick.  What you have seen is aberration.  We think Judge Hudson will get it right when he sentences Michael Vick on December 10," said Billy Martin.

When the details of Vick's plea became public last week he was swiftly suspended without pay.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called his actions "not only illegal, but also cruel and
reprehensible."

The Atlanta Falcons called his actions "incomprehensible and unacceptable."

Vick still faces the possibility of state charges that could put him behind bars for an even longer period of time.