Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reports that former Falcon offensive linemen Matt Lehr is under investigation for allegedly distrubuting performance-enhancing drugs. Lehr was last with the Falcons in 2006. According to Schmidt’s report, one unidentified player that currently plays on the Falcons has been subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury in Texas.
During 2006, Lehr was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, in relation to steroid use.
Lehr comes under investigation due to the guilty plea of David Jacobs, a personal trainer from Plano, TX this past November. Jacobs pleaded guilty to federal charges that he manufactured steroids in his home from raw materials imported from China and then distributed them through his connections as a trainer. Reportedly, Jacobs ran one of the largest steroid distribution networks in the Southwest. Jacobs indicated that he had close ties with certain members of both the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. According to the Dallas Morning News, Lehr met Jacobs in the fall of 2006 which would coincide with his suspension.
Lehr’s lawyer indicates that he expects the charges to be dropped due to faulty information provided by Jacobs, and that Lehr has been fingered because of his refusal to pay Jacobs’s legal fees.
“We are confident that the more the feds look at Jacobs, the less credible of a source of information he becomes.”
– Paul Coggins, Lehr’s attorney
The AP reports that Michael Vick’s trial for charges brought by the state of Virginia has been rescheduled for June 27. Originally the trial was set for April 2, but due to bureaucratic issues such as transportation it was delayed. Vick is currently serving time in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
The AP reports that the National Football League is asking a federal court to vacate the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge David Doty’s ruling in regards to the Falcons attempts to recoup bonus money paid to jailed and currently suspended quarterback Michael Vick. The league also seeks to end Doty’s jurisdiction in the league’s labor matters.
Doty reversed a previous ruling by NFL special master Stephen Burbank that indicated the Falcons could recoup $19.97 million in bonus money from Vick. Doty’s ruling indicated that more than $16 million of that figure was not eligible for the team to regain. Doty first presided over the 1992 antitrust suit, which granted him jurisdiction in these labor matters over than a decade. The league indicated that Doty’s comments from earlier this month about the ruling indicates that he is biased towards them. The league released a statement:
“Michael Vick breached his contract and cannot play because he was convicted of a felony and is sitting in jail. Despite those facts, the judge held that Vick is entitled to keep nearly $20 million in bonus money paid to him for playing football through the 2014 season. No other industry has its labor relations supervised by a federal judge in the way we do, and at this point, after 15 years of labor peace, it is hard to understand why such oversight is necessary or (why it is) an appropriate use of judicial resources.”
The AJC reports that U.S. District Judge David Doty has overturned an earlier ruling that indicated that Michael Vick was liable to repay nearly $20 million in bonus money. In October, NFL Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled that Falcons could recoup $19.97 million in bonus money paid to Vick due to his league-imposed suspension. Burbank’s ruling went against previous rulings that indicated option and roster bonuses could not be recouped by teams.
The Falcons were counting on the repaid bonus money in order to gain cap relief in the near future. It is unknown as of yet, if Vick will have to repay any portion of the bonuses. In Burbank’s ruling, slightly more than $16 million of the $19.97 million was from roster bonuses. Doty’s ruling may only mean that the Falcons will be able to recoup about $3.75 million in bonuses, which is initially what some experts projected.
Vick is currently serving his 23-month jail sentence in Kansas.
Currently the Falcons are projected by SI.com to have about $5.79 million in cap space in 2008.
Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison today. Afterwards he will serve three years probation and forced to pay a $5,000 fine. He may be eligible for an early release in May 2009 but otherwise is slated to serve until October of that year.
Two of Vick’s co-defendants were senteced last month with Purnell Peace set to serve 18 months and Quanis Phillips 21 months. Tony Taylor is slated to be sentenced this upcoming Friday.
Vick may face further punishment stemming from state charges. His trial in Surry County is slated to begin on April 2, 2008.
Vick was indicted on federal conspiracy charges in July, and plead guilty to those charges the following month. He was levied with an indefinite suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the ensuing week. Vick currently is still a member of the Atlanta Falcons, however it may be only a matter of time before he is released. It is believed that once the Falcons reclaim a sizable portion of bonus money in Vick’s contract, they will release him. Falcons owner Arthur Blank released the following statement today:
“Michael Vick’s federal prison sentencing today is another step in his legal journey. This is 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.
“We sincerely hope that Michael will use this time to continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life, and we wish him well in that regard.”
Felony animal cruelty charges against Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux were dismissed on Wednesday according to an AJC report. The charges stemmed from the death of Babineaux’s girlfriend’s dog “Kilo” in February.
According to the AJC report, the charges were dropped after an extensive investigation could not come to a consensus among experts about the cause of death and how the injury occurred. An autopsy revealed that Kilo died of blunt-force trauma to the head, but whether that was inflicted by Babineaux could not be determined.
The dog had a history of unprovoked attacks and a dog trainer had informed Babineaux to spin the dog by its leash when it became aggressive. According to Babineaux’s lawyer, the dog was acting aggressively towards Babineaux and his infant son, and Babineaux engaged in the spinning technique which resulted in the dog’s death from it striking a wall.
Babineaux faced potential suspension from the NFL had he been indicted by a Gwinnett County grand jury.
NFL Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of the Falcons after hearing last week their arguments in their attempts to recoup millions in signing bonus money from suspended quarterback Michael Vick. Burbank’s ruling says that the Falcons are entitled to $19.97 million in bonus money that has been paid to Vick over the past three years since he signed his landmark $130 million deal in December 2004.
The ruling is interesting because it breaks with a previous ruling made by Burbank last year in this case of Ashley Lelie. Burbank ruled that the Denver Broncos could not recoup option bonuses paid to Lelie because they were payments for time already earned. Some experts believed that because that most of the payments made to Vick were in the form of roster bonuses, they would be treated the same as option bonuses.
According to Burbank’s ruling, per the Associated Press, the Falcons are entitled to half of the $7.5 million bonus paid to Vick in December 2004, $13.5 million of the $22.5 million roster bonus paid to Vick the following year, and $2.72 million of the $7 million bonus paid to Vick this past year, totalling to $19.97 million.
In his ruling on the Vick case, Burbank indicated that because Vick’s bonuses were payments for future services, which won’t be earned because of his league-imposed suspension.
The Falcons released a statement today:
“We are certainly pleased with today’s ruling by NFL Special Master Stephen Burbank. It is the first step in a process that our club has undertaken in an attempt to recoup significant salary cap space that will allow us to continue to build our football team today and in future years.”
The NFL Players Association has indicated that they plan to appeal the ruling. Now it will be up to U.S. District Court Judge David Doty in Minneapolis to either overturn or uphold Burbank’s ruling. The that there is no timetable for when a decision will be made by Doty, but it could take months, per the AJC.
If it is upheld and when payments are actually received from Vick, the Falcons would receive credit towards the following year’s salary cap in that amount.
ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reports that the Falcons have are seeking to have Michael Vick return about $16 million in bonus money due to him pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges. A previous report by ESPN had that figure reported at $20 million.
University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Stephen Burbank will oversee a hearing that is scheduled for tomorrow. The NFL Players Association will argue against the Falcons claim indicating that because most of the Vick’s bonus money was paid as roster bonuses which cannot be recouped by teams. Vick signed a ten-year $130 million contract in December 2004, which included $37 million in bonuses. About $29.5 million of that was due as roster bonuses.
Last season, prior to his acquisition by the Falcons, wide receiver Ashley Lelie was involved in a dispute with the Denver Broncos involving his absence from training camp. It was resolved in that case that because Lelie’s bonuses were option bonuses and thus deemed already earned, the Broncos could not recoup that money. Based on the NFLPA’s interpretation of the rule and, roster bonuses are treated as option bonuses. Because of this rule, some experts have contended that the Falcons may receive as little as $3.75 million or up to $6 million instead of the $16-20 million they seek.
According to Paolantonio, the Falcons will argue that because of his involvement in dogfighting that according to federal charges began in 2001, Vick was already in defraud of the contract he signed in 2004 and that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in which the “Lelie rule” applies was not signed until 2006 and thus is not applicable to Vick’s contract.
Also the Falcons plan to file another separate grievance against Vick that will seek over $22 million from him in damages. That grievance is not expected to be heard until after the case that will be heard Thursday is resolved.
Today, Michael Vick was arraigned in Surry County on two felony charges and a trial date of November 27 was set.
Vick is set to be sentenced on December 10 involving his guilty plea to federal conspiracy charges.
As an update to previous reports, the Associated Press reports that DeAngelo Hall will be fined $100,000 and may sit for at least a quarter in this week’s upcoming bout with the Houston Texans. Hall plans to appeal the fine through the NFL Players Association.
The report indicates that Hall may be benched this week for a quarter or the entire first half. Hall indicated that he did not believe that the team’s punishment was fair.