Thursday, July 26, 2007
The National Football League hired former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation of the indictment of Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick on a conspiracy charge involving dog fighting on his property in Virginia. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asked the team to withhold taking any punitive action against Vick until the League's investigation is complete. Prior to his service as the DAG, Holder was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he's now a partner at Covington & Burling -- which happens to be the former law firm of Goodell's predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. During his tenure at Main Justice, Holder got to affix his name to the first memorandum outlining the government's policy regarding charging corporations with crimes, the eponymous Holder Memo, that was subsequently supplanted by the Thompson Memo and the current McNulty Memo. All three have generated significant controversy in the white collar crime world, although they are droplets compared to the almost daily coverage of the indictment of Vick and three others for conspiracy (see L.A. Times story here).
An interesting question will be whether Vick's attorney will allow him to cooperate with Holder's investigation. In baseball, former Senator George Mitchell's investigation of steroid use has been largely stymied by the refusal of players to meet with him, save Jason Giambi after his virtual admission to using performance-enhancing substances. Unlike the baseball players, Vick is facing a federal charge that could land him in jail if he's convicted and would likely cost him a couple seasons out of the NFL. Anything Vick might say to Holder would not be privileged, and federal prosecutors in all likelihood could obtain his statements for use against him at trial. Is the NFL trying to set Vick up so that the League can suspend him for not cooperating, rather than barring him from playing because of a charge on which he has not been convicted and is presumed innocent, at least in the criminal proceeding? The lack of cooperation could well be the easy way out for the NFL to get a player off the field who is bound to generate significant negative publicity. For all you fantasy football players out there, don't look for Vick to play any time soon, although he may be worth a fourth or fifth round pick on the off-chance this gets resolved sooner rather than later. (ph)