Michael Vick was sentenced Monday to 23 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy that involved gambling and killing pit bulls that did not perform up to expectations.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson could have sentenced the suspended NFL quarterback to up to five years. Vick pleaded guilty in August, admitting that he bankrolled the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting operation at his property in Surry County and that he helped kill six to eight dogs.
He also admitted providing money for bets on the fights but said he never shared in any winnings.
Vick was dressed in a black-and-white striped prison suit Monday in Richmond federal court and apologized to his family and to the court.
Hudson said, "You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you."
Vick acknowledged he used "poor judgment" and said, "I'm willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions."
Before the hearing started, Michael Vick's brother, Marcus Vick, sat with his right arm around their mother, comforting her as she wept.
As has been the case since the Michael Vick dogfighting conspiracy charges first came about, there was plenty of public reaction as Vick was sentenced.
By 8 a.m. Monday, about two dozen animal rights activists stood across the street from the Richmond federal courthouse holding posters showing injured pit bulls and the messages, "Report Dogfighters" and "Dogs Deserve Justice."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals spokesman Dan Shannon said PETA "wanted to make sure the focus on the animals in this case isn't lost."
Julia Novak arrived with her small beagle, Frankie, who wore a sandwich board with a message that said: "Dogfighters use dogs like me for bait."
Twenty-seven-year-old Ryan Eanes of Richmond wore his Number Seven Vick jersey as he waited in line to get into the courtroom.
Eanes said, "We all make mistakes."
He said he believes Vick's apology was sincere.
In a statement posted on the Falcons' Web site Monday, team owner Arthur Blank called the sentencing hearing "a difficult day for Michael's family and for a lot of us, including many of our players and fans who have been emotionally invested in Michael over the years."
Blank said he hopes that Vick will quote "continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life, and we wish him well in that regard."
Calling him "very disappointed" and "saddened," Michael Vick's top attorney, Billy Martin, says the disgraced NFL star deserves a "second chance" in society and in professional football.
Martin said they hope Vick will be released from prison within 18 months, and said his client knows the sentence was a "direct result of his conduct."
Martin said he hopes that people will see Vick as someone who has "fallen so far, and so hard and so fast" and will recognize that he is "being punished for his mistake."
Another Vick lawyer, Larry Woodward, said after court that Vick "asked to tell everybody that he doesn't want anybody feeling sorry for him."
John Goodwin of the Humane Society called the sentence appropriate.
He said, "People that are involved in this bloodsport are on notice. You can throw your life away by being involved in this."
Vick voluntarily began serving his sentence early and has been held the past three weeks at a regional jail in Warsaw, Virginia. There was no word in court Monday on where Vick might serve his prison term.