Sunday, July 17, 2011

When You Get Over Casey, I'll Get Over Mikey

Today should be a marvelous day for all Michael Vick supporters everywhere. Once again a pseudo-celebrity is being released from prison, having completed her court assigned incarceration for a violent crime. Well, let me rephrase that - completing their sentence for a trivial crime associated with their alleged involvement in a violent crime. Casey Anthony served two and a half years for "providing false statements to investigators" and Vick served one and a half years for "promoting interstate gambling." Anthony COULD have spent the rest of her life - a life that MAY have been shortened by the State - in prison, and Vick COULD have spent upwards of six decades in state prison. But the courts have spoken, sentences have been served, and both are free to do as they please. They have served their time, so it's time to just get over it. At least that's how the sentiment goes for Vick.

Now, before we go any further, let me make one thing perfectly clear. In no way am I comparing the life of a human with the lives of dogs. I am not saying that because Vick admitted to killing "6 or 7" dogs he is worse than Anthony who is accused of killing her two year old daughter. All I am comparing is the prosecutions and "persecutions" of two violent offenders and the outcomes of those prosecutions.

What baffles my mind is the seeming willingness of so many people to just forget what it was that Michael Vick did and say "He served his time, get over it." And if that is the general public mindset, then why is the same opinion not being proffered for Ms. Anthony? Why did Vick not have to leave the state and change his name (Victor Michaels?) as it appears Casey Anthony will do? Why was he able to step right back in to his life almost as if nothing had ever happened? Where is the "Mother of the Year" award for Anthony? Why isn't Nike standing at the prison gates with a contract asking her to shill for their "Tiny Tot" footwear? At the very least, shouldn't someone be giving her a pair of the new Vick Nikes? The ones that seem capable of helping you outrun your past and dodge Justice.

Lead prosecutor in the Anthony case Jeff Ashton is being called everything from a bumbling buffoon to a moron to a legal fraud. He took his case to court, with no physical evidence outside a tiny skeleton and a piece of duct tape. There was no "hard" evidence to prove a murder had occurred, let alone who had done it. There was no admission of guilt. There were no eyewitnesses. There was some damning behavior on the part of the accused, and that was where the prosecution hung it's hat. It worked in the court of public opinion. Who could believe that a mother who was completely innocent would lie to police and ignore the fact that her daughter was missing for a month? The only problem is, in our legal system, the legal courts have the obligation to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred, and that evidence apparently wasn't there.

The lead prosecutor in the Vick case was an entirely different matter. Gerald Poindexter had a mountain of physical evidence. He had the compound at 1915 Moonlight Road with it's assorted dog fighting paraphernalia. He had 9 canine corpses. He had over 50 living specimens of the treatment that dogs at Bad Newz Kennels received. He had eyewitness testimony. He had photographs of Vick at dogfights. And after he failed a polygraph, Vick confessed to killing "six or seven" under performing dogs. What did he do with this evidence? He told federal investigators that " he didn't like the idea of a young African American who had escaped from an underprivileged background and become something of an icon being dragged down, and he certainly didn't want to be a part of it." (Quote from The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant) Let's take a look at a couple other "circumstantial" exhibits from the questionable prosecutor.

  • Poindexter had represented Michael Vick's father in a civil matter four years prior to his assignment prosecuting the young Vick.
  • After law enforcement had staged to execute a second search warrant on the Moonlight Road property, Poindexter called it off and revoked the warrant. A Virginia investigator claimed that this was the first time in all his years or experience that this had happened.
  • Poindexter repeatedly made contradictory statements to the press regarding the investigation.
With all of the physical evidence against Vick, the circumstantial evidence against Poindexter becomes at LEAST as damning as the evidence against Casey Anthony, don't you think? When a prosecutor who by all appearances is acting more like a defense attorney hands down a plea bargain with a 3 year suspended sentence, can we not agree that THAT was also a huge miscarriage of justice? Depending on how you do the math, at the very least, Michael Vick was looking at a potential 65 years in the state pen. It wasn't a matter of the laws not being tough enough, as it so often is in animal abuse cases. It wasn't a botched or ineffectual presentation to a jury. And, in my less than humble opinion, it wasn't a natural miscarriage of Justice - it was a borderline criminal act of corrupt favoritism that allowed a violent offender to walk out of jail scott free.

We will probably never know for sure what happened to little Caylee Anthony. I mourn for her, and I mourn for the lack of Justice in bringing those responsible for her death to account. We don't know if it was malice or neglect or pure accident that led to her death, but that death and the circumstances following scream for someone to be held accountable.

We know without a shadow of a doubt what happened to at least 60 of the dogs that were part of Bad Newz Kennels. We have 9 of their bodies and we have 51 living testimonies to a lifetime of abuse and torment. Many of these poor creatures had had the dog beaten out of them. They were quivering lumps of living terror. Some still suffer those psychological scars. We have eyewitness testimony as to how Vick helped dispose of the 9 that were found - some by hanging, in other cases stuffing their heads in 5 gallon pail of water to drown them. And in one case, picking the Little Red Dog up and swinging it over his head like a jump rope and beating it on the ground repeatedly until nearly every bone in it's body was broken and it finally expired. A necropsy on one of the corpses corroborates this testimony.

Justice may have been cheated in the Anthony case, but in the Vick case she was bound, beaten, sexually assaulted and left for dead on the side of the road. Yes, I believe that Casey Anthony probably got away with murder - whether accidental, premeditated or as the result of a psychotic break, I don't know, and I doubt anyone ever will. However, I also think she will forever live a life of seclusion, shunned wherever she goes, forced to hide her past and try to stay below the radar. No obscure cable TV network is going to give her accolades, no apparel company is going to ask her to be their spokes person, John Walsh and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children are not likely to start lobbying for her to be allowed to adopt a child. She's pretty much toast, so I am not overly concerned about her at this point.

Michael Vick on the other hand is an entirely different matter. He IS being viewed as a role model by American youth. And dog fighting arrests are up 300% in Philadelphia since his arrival. He IS being given millions to shill products for companies. And he IS being allowed to just walk on by all his past deeds as if they never happened. And the sports media is especially culpable in this cover-up. They are quick to sweep his past misdeeds under the rug and blur the lines by only pointing out that he "was involved in a dog fighting ring." There is never any mention of the level of "involvement" to which he has confessed. They are eager to project a "feel good comeback story" with nary a mention of just exactly WHAT it is that he is trying to "come back" from. And all the while championing that sacred mantra "He's served his time! He's changed! He's reformed!" I call "Shenaningans" on that one!

Michael Vick told JB on 60 Minutes "I was unable to say to certain people 'We gotta stop. I am worried about my career' " His career. Not "This shit is WRONG!" Just his career. He told another interviewer "I'm happy I turned out to be the person I am. I wouldn't change anything about my life if I could." This was AFTER his "difficulties". How can we be sure? Because the interviewer was as baffled by that answer that any right thinking person would be. He pressed Vick for a clarification. Vick's reply? "I'd change the prison sentence to 5 or 6 months from 18." When he had a chance to talk with one of the people who had adopted one of his dogs do you think he took that opportunity? After all, he has said that he "thinks about those dogs all the time". Nah, he was whisked away by his entourage who told the man "We don't care about no dogs." I don't believe he is changed. I don't believe is reformed. I don't believe he is in the least bit sorry or ashamed of his actions , only sorry about having to face the consequences. And truthfully, I suspect that Michael Vick has not spent his last day looking at the inside of a jail cell. I think he is OJ ver. 2.0 . I just hope when he goes off next time no innocents get hurt.

So to all of you who keep saying "Michael Vick served his time. He deserves a second chance. Get over it." It's time to practice what you preach. Casey Anthony has served her time as proscribed by a court of law. By your logic it is time to "get over it." Unless you are a colossal hypocrite you need to just pour yourself a nice tall glass of Shut The Hell Up and let her have her second chance. Who knows? Maybe someday in the not too distant future the National Felons League will start selling Anthony jerseys and you can buy one and spend $100 to stand in line and have her autograph it. How does that sound?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"He Served His Time" ... Or Did He?

Perhaps the most polarizing personality in all of professional sports - Michael Vick. The people who love him stand behind him unconditionally. Those who hate him, hate him without compassion. Those in the middle seem to be buying the philosophy that "He paid his debt. It's time to move on." And if that was the case, it would make the debate a little more intellectual and a little less emotional. But did he really "pay his debt"? Therein lies the biggest bone of contention.

In August of 2007, Vick entered a plea of guilty to a federal racketeering charge for promoting gambling across state lines for his ownership and sponsorship of the dog fighting concern known as "Bad Newz Kennels". He was sentenced to 23 months in prison of which he served 18 months before being released to finish his sentence under house arrest. No one disputes this. Vick served time for illegal gambling, which is more than Pete Rose ever did. All well and good.

In November of 2008, Vick struck the plea bargain that is the basis of much of the controversy that surrounds the NFL quarterback. Commonwealth Prosecutor Gerald Poindexter made the imprisoned Vick an offer he would have been crazy to refuse. In return for a guilty plea on a state dog fighting charge, Vick would be given a three year suspended sentence and all other charges would be dropped. So without ever serving a day in prison on any of the state charges, Vick was allowed to step out of federal prison and back on to the gridiron, after having his "indefinite" suspension lifted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Let's look at the law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A charge of animal cruelty that does not result in the death of an animal is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to twelve months. 51 dogs were seized from Michael Vick's compound at 1915 Moonlight Road in Smithfield, VA. Many of these dogs bore the scars of their abuse. Others were so obviously psychologically scarred that one could say that they had had the dog beaten out of them. They no longer knew how to behave. Some still suffer these horrors today. Google "Richard Hunter, Mel" for just one of these stories. A charge of animal cruelty where the animal dies , is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Michael Vick admitted after failing a polygraph that he had personally killed "6 or 7 dogs." Eyewitness testimony makes that number much higher - at least 11. We'll split the difference and call it 9 - the number of canine bodies recovered from Bad Newz Kennels. That's at LEAST 51 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and 9 felonies. That is a potential 96 years jail time for the animal cruelty charges. He served not one day. Surely the appropriate sentence lies somewhere in the middle.

Should we be concerned by the fact that the attorney responsible for pursuing the state charges against Michael Vick had represented Vick's father in a civil matter in 2003? How about the fact that one of the federal investigators claimed that Poindexter, who is black, made it clear that he didn’t like the idea of a young African American who had escaped from an underprivileged background and become something of an icon being dragged down, and he certainly didn’t want to be a part of it. Do you smell a conflict of interest yet? Does it bother you that Poindexter frequently made contradictory statements regarding the case? Is it a point of interest that just prior to a second search warrant being served on Vick's property Poindexter withdrew the warrant? Why does a prosecutor who ends up cutting a celebrity convict such a sweetheart deal seem to be acting more like a defense attorney?

Dogfighting had been an interest of Vick's for many years and he had been bankrolling Bad Newz Kennels for years before his arrest in 2007. It wasn't a "wrong place , wrong time" moment. It was just a culmination of bad behavior that included drug possession and use, sexual misconduct under the alias of Ron Mexico, and firearms possession. And Vick did more than just bankroll the operation. He was painfully "hands on" regarding the goings on at the compound.

An excerpt from The Lost Dogs by Sports Illustrated senior editor Jim Gorant ~

"As [the little red dog] lay on the ground fighting for air, Quanis Phillips grabbed its front legs and Michael Vick grabbed its hind legs. They swung the dog over their head like a jump rope then slammed it to the ground. The first impact didn't kill it. So Phillips and Vick slammed it again. The two men kept at it, alternating back and forth, pounding the creature against the ground, until at last, the little red dog was dead."

From the USDA report on the activities at Bad Newz Kennels ~

"On two occasions VICK placed his [redacted] dog in the ring and the 'BAD NEWZ KENNEL' pit bull dogs caused major injuries to [redacted] dog. Vick also placed his [redacted] dog in the ring. Both dogs were family pets. VICK, PEACE and PHILLIPS thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to 'BAD NEWZ KENNELS' injure or kill the other dogs."

Reagrdless of convictions or time served, is it not rational to question why a man of this calibre was allowed back in to the NFL? Is this the type of person we wish to put in a position to be seen as a sports hero and role model for America's youth? Where do we draw the line?

"Paid his debt"? I don't believe it. "Served his time"? Not in my book. He has not faced justice, he has cheated it. And his accomplices in the media who refuse to hold him accountable and sweep his misdeeds under the carpet are as bad as he is. He has stated that when he was engaged in these activities, it never occured to him that what he was doing was wrong. He has admitted that if he hadn't been caught, he would still be dog fighting. Do you honestly believe he is reformed? Does it not concern you that he seems utterly incapable of any empathic feelings? This is a classic symptom of a sociopath. And those who abuse and kill innocent animals often go on to perpetrate violence against people in their orbit. I question if Michael Vick has spent his last day in a jail cell.

The bottom line is this - When you make a conscious decision to torture another living creature simply for your own amusement, you have crossed a line that can never be uncrossed. And when you make the conscious decision to summarily execute by means most foul those creatures who failed to properly amuse you while you were torturing them, for my money you have lost your seat at the banquet that is America's celebrity bounty. Unless it's along side Danny Bonaduce trying to figure out just exactly how you let it all go so horribly wrong


What's the Differnece?

NFL superstar quarterback Bubba Whitebread , having spent 18 months of a 24 month sentence for charges stemming from a barroom altercation has been conditionally reinstated in the NFL by commissioner Roger Baddell. Sounds innocuous enough, doesn't it? But what if the facts of the case and the circumstances surrounding it were a little darker? What if a slightly creepy "character flaw" had been exposed? What if, as Paul Harvey would say, "But now let's hear . . . the REST of the story."

On the evening of August 8th, 2008, Whitebread was involved in an altercation at the Cloud 9 Bar and Grill in Princeton, RI. After spending the evening chatting and dancing with Celestial Grace, a self described transvestite, in the heat of an amorous embrace, Whitebread discovered that his partner was not what he had expected. He struck Miss Grace at which time bouncers restrained the enraged athlete until police arrived. A small quantity of marijuana was found on his person, and another in his car. This gave police sufficient cause to seek a warrant to search the quarterback's home. It was there that a chilling alter ego was revealed.

For the 6 years of his NFL career, the 4 time All Star had been leading a double life. It seems he had been a Grand Wizard of his local chapter of the KKK in Backwater Bog, Arkansas. When police served the search warrant at Bubba's home , they discovered closets full of hoods and robes, photographs of Bubba officiating at cross burning ceremonies, boxes and boxes of Neo Nazi propaganda pamphlets and a printing press all bearing Whitehead's fingerprints, and at least 9 scorched regions back in a clearing in the woods that appear to have been the sites of cross burnings.

After initially denying any knowledge of the paraphernalia or goings on unearthed at his home, Whitebread eventually confessed after failing a polygraph and being confronted with the photographs. He plead guilty to a count of simple assault and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. After serving 18 months he was released on good behavior and applied through the Players Union for reinstatement in the League...

Now follow the parallel and tell me at what point the situations change.

These are "crimes" in which no human being is harmed. They are reported to be a result of his "cultural upbringing". He was sentenced by the courts to a jail term which he served out and "paid his debt."

Tell me which team do you think would resign him? Which TV networks would give him awards? Which shoe company would sign him to an endorsement deal and give him his own "signature line" of athletic wear?

All of you Vick apologists, please put on your thinking caps and give me you best reply. For full credit please remember to phrase your response in the form of a question. Which is worse - being a bigoted moron, or torturing and or killing dozens of dogs over a period of years for your own personal amusement?

At the very least, are they not EQUALLY reprehensible? Why then do you continue to defend the indefensible actions of Michael Vick? Why do you attempt to perpetrate the hoax that "he served his time" when in fact he served not one single day in state prison for the charges against him that could have landed him there for over half a century? Why do you ignore the fact that the prosecutor who allowed Vick to plea to a single count of dog fighting and recommended a suspended sentence told federal investigators that " he didn’t like the idea of a young African American who had escaped from an underprivileged background and become something of an icon being dragged down, and he certainly didn’t want to be a part of it."?

By word and deed Michael Vick forfeited his "right" to be held up as a sports hero and role model for young people around the country. Yet people continue to defend actions that are far more sinister, depraved and violent than anything outlined in the fictional scenario above. Yet I promise you "Bubba" would never work in or for the NFL again. Yet Vick has become a media darling. And no one can logically explain why. Can you?