Interesting results from a New York Times/CNN poll exploring public perception of Michael Vick's case.
Thirty-six percent of those familiar with the dogfighting allegations against Vick, the Atlanta Falcons’ star quarterback, said he was being treated better than an average person. Only 9 percent said Vick was being treated worse than an average person. The plurality, 44 percent, said Vick was being handled the same as anyone else.
So, clearly, the overwhelming proportion of respondents, 80%, perceive Vick to either be receiving preferential treatment or normal handling of his case.
But, let's consider: How would an average Joe, that isn't Michael Vick, be treated.
Well, to begin with, the chances that an average Joe would even face federal prosecution are virtually nil. Statistics show that almost to a person, individuals charged in dog fighting cases are tried by local jurisdiction.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (a group which monitors and pursues cases of animal cruelty):
While the federal dog fighting law was updated a bit in May of this year, it has been around for years, yet I found only 1 reported appellate case involving this law being used by federal prosecutors; 3 others discussed whether this federal fighting law preempted state anti-cruelty or fighting laws, and in all 3 cases the courts ruled it did not (an interesting idea for the local DA to consider…). Nearly all animal anti-cruelty laws are state laws tried in state courts. Thus it has been particularly difficult for ALDF to get federal prosecutors, who are generally inexperienced in animal cases, interested in any animal cruelty matter that occasionally does come under federal jurisdiction by virtue of either happening on federal lands or being prohibited by a federal law. Years ago we tried to get several U.S. attorney offices interested in shutting down and prosecuting those responsible for “crush videos” (made underground for fetishists who enjoyed watching small animals or birds being crushed to death by a woman’s high heel) after the federal law was passed making them illegal. We got few takers.
So, the next time you hear the media or anyone else suggest that Michael Vick is getting the same attention that any individual accused of involvement in dog fighting would be getting; know that that is false.
Even the folks that fight to bring justice to animal abusers are a bit shocked at the extreme vigor Vick's case has drawn.
But remember, there's no bias whatsoever in this statistically highly unusual federal indictment and federal prosecution. That's just the normal process for this sort of case.