The NFL took quick action Friday following Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick's admission that he played a role in operating a dogfighting ring. The league suspended Vick indefinitely without pay.
Vick acknowledged killing poorly performing pit bulls and supplying money for gambling and the oversight of an interstate dogfighting operation based out of his Virginia property, according to court documents filed this afternoon in federal court in Richmond, Va.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback, 27, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to travel across state lines for the purpose of dogfighting. The charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison, $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised release, according to the plea agreement.
In a letter responding to Vick's court statements, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote:
"Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible. Your team, the NFL, and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions. … Your plea agreement and the plea agreements of your co-defendants also demonstrate your significant involvement in illegal gambling. Even if you personally did not place bets, as you contend, your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL Player Contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."
In the letter Goodell also states that he will review the status of Vick's suspension once the legal proceedings against him have concluded. The commissioner goes on to advise Vick that the Atlanta Falcons "are now free to assert any claims or remedies available to them under the Collective Bargaining Agreement or your NFL Player Contract."
According to Vick's plea agreement, "the government agrees to recommend sentencing at the low end of the applicable guideline range, provided the defendant fulfils his obligations under this plea agreement." That range, according to sources, could be from one to three years behind bars, a decision that will be made by U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson.
Vick agreed that a property he'd purchased on Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Va., for $34,000 in 2001 became the headquarters for Bad News Kennels, according to a summary of facts in court documents obtained by ABC News.
Purses for dogfighting matches, which took place on the property as well as in other locations, ranged from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, most of which was gambling money provided by Vick, according to the documents. Vick did not, however, place side bets on any of the fights or receive any of the proceeds from purses won by Bad News Kennels.
Vick admits in the documents that in April of this year, he was involved in the killing of six to eight dogs that did not perform well during "testing" sessions at the Moonlight Road property. The dogs were "killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning."
In April, evidence of dogfighting, including more than 50 dogs, was discovered by federal agents during a raid on the Moonlight Road property. No decision has been made on the fate of the dogs.
Under his plea, Vick agrees to testify as a witness for the federal government in future trials.
Vick was originally indicted in July. Each of the three Vick co-conspirators -- Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips -- have already entered guilty pleas.
Billy Martin, Vick's attorney, told ESPN in a telephone interview that his client would address his guilty plea to the public, but did not say exactly when. The U.S. attorney's office said that a statement regarding the plea deals would be issued after Vick's court appearance Monday.
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, said after details of the plea were announced that the organization is hopeful that Vick will help lead prosecutors to additional dogfighting participants.
"Well, we have reason to believe that there's a lot of information being shared about other dogfighting operations and we don't want this to begin and end with Bad Newz Kennels," he told ABC News. "And so we hope and expect that information's going to be provided from the Vick camp that will further those goals."
Vick's future in the National Football League remains a question mark. He has already been barred from training camp and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has asked the Falcons organization to hold off on any potential team discipline until the league decides how it will respond.
Outrage over the Vick charges have already cost him lucrative sponsorship contracts with Rawlings, Nike, Reebok and Upper Deck.
As the details of the plea deal emerged, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted on its Web site Thursday night a story in which Vick's estranged biological father said that he'd tried to steer his son away from the dogfighting lifestyle.
Michael Boddie told the Atlanta newspaper that Vick staged multiple dogfights in 2001 in the garage of the family's Newport News, Va., home and that his son would keep the dogs, sometimes injured, in the family's yard.
While Vick supporters have often tried to link Vick's involvement in dogfighting to troublemaking friends around him, Boddie rested the blame more squarely on his son.
"I wish people would stop sugarcoating it," Boddie said. "This is Mike's thing and he knows it."
An attorney for Vick sniped back, telling the newspaper that his client knew nothing about Boddie's 2001 allegations and that it's a disgrace that Boddie "would at this time seek to capitalize on his son's current situation," the paper said.
The relationship between Vick and his father is notoriously rocky, though Vick, who has a $130 million contract with the Falcons, pays the rent for his father's apartment and gives him a modest allowance. Vick reportedly declined a recent request from his father to give him $1 million over 12 years and another to give him $700,000.
Boddie, who has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse and went through rehab as recently as 2004, said he has not spoken to prosecutors about his son's alleged dogfighting involvement in 2001.