Georgia leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today urged the public not to judge Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick before he has his day in court.
Atlanta NAACP president R.L. White said during a brief news conference that while he recognizes the seriousness of thedogfighting allegations against Vick, he is deeply concerned about the way the case is being handled. White said Vick has been vilified by animal rights groups, talk radio and the news media, and was prematurely punished by his team and corporate sponsors.
``If Mr. Vick is guilty, he should pay for his crime, but to treat him as he is being treated now is also a crime,'' White said.``Be restrained in your premature judgment until the legal process is completed.''
Vick has pleaded not guilty to charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation.
This morning, Tony Taylor, a co-defendant in the case, pleaded guilty in Virginia to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges in a plea agreement with prosecutors. Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach and Quanis Phillips of Atlanta face similar charges and are scheduled for trial November 26. They remain free without bond.
White said he plans to contact Vick to see what assistance the Atlanta NAACP chapter can offer. White predicted that public opinion may worsen in the wake of Taylor's plea deal.
Until then, he said he would keep an open mind and encouraged others to do the same.
Georgia NAACP president Edward Dubose thanked Vick for his community service and the money and excitement he has brought to Georgia as a Falcon. Dubose said Vick is being prosecuted in the court of public opinion before he has had a chance to defend himself.
``We're not condoning bad behavior, but Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty,'' Dubose said.
Atlanta chapter member Bernadette Allen attended the news conference and also attended a rally on Sunday to support Vick. She said she felt the star quarterback has been prejudged unfairly.
``The man is entitled to due process under the law, as is any citizen,'' Allen said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times