Will the Vick Co-Defendant Plead-out Stop the Inane Duke Lacrosse Comparisons?

The news:

Taylor to have plea agreement hearing on Monday Posted: Friday July 27, 2007 9:02PM; Updated: Friday July 27, 2007 9:45PM RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- One of Michael Vick's co-defendants doesn't want to wait for trial. Instead, a plea agreement hearing has been scheduled for Tony Taylor at 9 a.m. Monday in the federal dogfighting conspiracy case. Taylor's hearing was added to U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson's docket Friday, a day after he and the other three defendants pleaded not guilty before the same judge. Vick and the others still are scheduled for trial Nov. 26. Prosecutors claim Taylor, 34, found the Surry County property purchased by Vick and used it as the site of "Bad Newz Kennels," a dogfighting enterprise. The Hampton man also allegedly helped purchase pit bulls and killed at least two dogs that fared poorly in test fights.

Perhaps Taylor's impending plea will squelch the annoying Old Media comparisons of the Vick case to that of the innocent Duke lacrosse players wrongly indicted by Prosecutor Mike Nifong last year. A week ago, in probably the most egregious example of Duke-Vick projection, Sports Illustrated writer Peter King appointed himself to be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's translator:

The most telling 23 words regarding Michael Vick's immediate future as a football player came late in the NFL's statement about the alleged heinous, dastardly and despicable acts that led to charges being filed against the former savior of the Atlanta Falcons. Michael Vick's guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts. With that, rookie commissioner Roger Goodell sent a strong message: This is not going to be the Duke lacrosse case.

Does anyone besides Peter King and a few other race-obsessed reporters, opportunists, and attention-seekers think Roger Goodell had the Duke situation in mind when he made his statement? Reacting to the Vick indictment on ESPN, Roger Cossack admonished "us" (he actually said "let's not") not to repeat the same mistakes as "we" did in the Duke case. If by "we," Cossack meant the New York Times, many other Old Media outlets, the Duke administration, and 88 horrid faculty members who signed an inflammatory letter -- all of whom in essence presumed guilt when the legal process had barely begun -- he has a small point. If he was telling reporters and others to lay low until there is a final verdict, he was really calling for inappropriate, unwarranted, and unprecedented self-censorship. Turner's plea, if it indeed occurs on Monday, should break any hoped-for Vick-Duke parallels to bits. But I expect some will continue to play the tune, even though:

  • No one in the Duke case copped a plea.
  • Nifong, the now-disgraced Duke prosecutor, never had any objective evidence of substance (much of it was, to put it delicately, tainted); the Vick prosecutors have a mountain of physical evidence.
  • The Duke indictment was an exercise in prosecutorial fanstasy; the Vick indictment's 18 pages laboriously recite alleged facts and events that will need to be refuted in their entirety.
  • The Duke case had holes you could drive a Mack Truck through, and the only question was whether one of the students would break, not because of guilt, but to stop the accompanying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees from piling up. The Vick indictment has a sounder foundation, and it's not unreasonable to predict that Michael Vick faces a difficult challenge trying to beat this rap.

All of which shows that there is no point in trying to draw parallels between the two situations. Other than the proceedings taking place in a courtroom, there are none. Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.