Steve Helber, Associated Press
Michael Vick makes a statement after pleading guilty to a federal dogfighting charge.

Michael Vick voluntarily entered prison three weeks ago. Today in Richmond, Va., a federal judge will decide how long the suspended quarterback of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons must stay in jail.

Vick, 27, pleaded guilty in August to a one-count indictment alleging interstate conspiracy to operate a dogfighting ring. His plea agreement included a recommended sentencing guideline of 12 to 18 months in prison. However, the offense carries a maximum penalty of five years, and Judge Henry E. Hudson is not bound by the recommended guideline.

In sentencing two of Vick's co-defendants Nov. 30, Hudson stayed within the guidelines. But while federal prosecutors recommended the lower range, Hudson opted for the higher end.

Quanis Phillips of Atlanta received 21 months. Because of prior criminal convictions, his recommended sentence was 18 to 24 months.

In sentencing Phillips, the judge said, "You may have thought this was sporting, but it was very callous and cruel."

Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach, Va., received 18 months in prison. His recommended sentence had been 12 to 18 months.

In their plea agreement, Peace and Phillips said the dogfighting operation was "almost exclusively" funded by Vick.

"I think the judge's comments in open court about how seriously he took the dogfighting and the fact that Vick funded the operation, I think that probably means he'll sentence at the upper end," says Carl Tobias, University of Richmond law professor.

In sentencing Vick, the judge will consider a pre-sentence report compiled by a probation officer.

Vick surrendered Nov. 27 to U.S. marshals in Richmond to start serving his anticipated sentence. Housed at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., he will be present in court Monday for sentencing.

Vick, under indefinite suspension by the NFL, will have the opportunity to speak at his sentencing. Peace spoke in court at his sentencing and said, "I am very sorry." Phillips declined the opportunity to speak at his sentencing, but his attorney, Jeffrey Swartz, expressed his client's remorse.

A fourth defendant, Tony Taylor of Hampton, Va., was the first to plead guilty. He is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 14.

All four defendants also face state charges in Virginia related to the alleged dogfighting operation. Vick's trial on those charges is scheduled for April 2.