LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Sport Law – The atmosphere as Michael Vick entered the federal courtroom in Richmond Virginia was of a surreal carnival as a plane drawing a banner circled above the Atlanta Falcons’ training camp. The banner read “New Team Name? Dog-Killers?” the International Herald Tribune reports.
This was Vick’s day in court, to formally face the federal felony charges that he and three others ran a dogfighting ring at his property in Surry County, Virginia. His trial date was set for Nov. 26, which almost certainly means he will not play football this season.
If Vick’s teammates practicing outside Atlanta on Thursday thought that they could finally forget about Vick’s travails for a few hours in the protective cocoon of football, they were reminded otherwise by the whirring of the plane.
The court scenes caused the police to block off several blocks surrounding the downtown courthouse. When he arrived, he was greeted by boos interrupted by a smattering of cheers.
More than two dozen television satellite trucks, hundreds of protesters and 100 reporters who had lined up for hours hoping to secure a seat inside the courtroom converged on the courthouse, and Vick made his first public comments since the indictment was handed up last week.
“I take these charges very seriously and look forward to clearing my good name,” Vick said in a statement read by his lawyer, Billy Martin, who has previously represented Jayson Williams and Monica Lewinsky. “I respectfully ask all of you to hold your judgment until all of the facts are shown.
“Above all, I would like to say to my mom, I’m sorry for what she has had to go through in this most trying of times. It has caused pain to my family and I apologize to my family.”
Martin promised a hard-fought trial for Vick, who had been told by Commissioner Roger Goodell to stay away from the Falcons’ training camp. But for at least one day, Vick’s presence was still felt there, too.
Outside the gates to the Falcons’ headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, more than 100 supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood along a road. Across the driveway from them were about 10 people chanting, “We love Michael Vick.”
Inside the building, the Falcons’ coach, Bobby Petrino, spoke to his team about ignoring the distractions. He reminded the players that all teams faced adversity, invoking the case of the Patriots’ Super Bowl team, which rallied around quarterback Tom Brady when he replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe.