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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 17:56 GMT
NFL star gets dog-fight jail term
Michael Vick
Michael Vick was a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons
National Football League star Michael Vick has been jailed for 23 months for his part in a US dog-fighting ring.

Vick, 27, pleaded guilty with three others in August to running an inter-state operation known as Bad Newz Kennels, from 2001 to April 2007.

He voluntarily began serving his prison term in Virginia three weeks ago.

Vick, who could have faced five years in jail, apologised to the court and his family for his actions. The NFL has suspended him indefinitely without pay.

He signed a 10-year, $130m (65m) contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2004. The team has now started legal proceedings against him to recover millions of dollars.

He has also lost lucrative endorsement deals with companies including Nike.

Dogs killed

Appearing in court on Monday in prison uniform, Vick acknowledged he had exercised "poor judgement".

We sincerely hope that Michael will use this time to continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life
Arthur Blank
Atlanta Falcons owner
"I'm willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions," he said.

The judge told him he should also apologise to the "millions of young people who look up to you".

The 23-month sentence exceeded the 18 to 21 months suggested by federal guidelines - and the 12 to 18 months requested by prosecutors after Vick reached a plea agreement.

In his guilty plea, the quarterback admitted knowing that dogs that did not fight well were killed and that he had been involved in the killing of at least eight dogs.

Prosecutors said dogs sometimes fought to the death and that underperforming animals were shot, drowned, hanged, electrocuted or killed by being slammed to the ground.

Animal Rights activists outside the courthouse where Michael Vick was sentenced
Animal rights activists protested against dog-fighting outside court

Vick also admitted providing money for wagers on the fights but said he never shared in any of the winnings.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said it had been "a difficult day" for Vick's family, fellow players and the many fans who had supported him over the years.

"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," he said.

Animal rights activists gathered outside the courthouse before the sentencing to protest against dog-fighting.

Since his guilty plea, Vick has paid more than $900,000 (450,000) into a fund to pay for the care of the dogs rescued from his Virginia-based operation, the AFP news agency reports.

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