A federal grand jury in Richmond VA, indicted Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick, 27, Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach VA, Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta GA, and Tony Taylor, 34, of Hampton VA, on July 17 2007. The conspiracy count alleges that they bought and sponsered dogs in an animal fighting venture and traveled across state lines to participate in illegal activity, including gambling.
According to the indictment, dogs that didn't show enough fighting spirit or that lost matches, were put to death. Prosecutors allege that on one occasion, Vick participated in the killing of eight dogs in April 2007 "by various methods including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground. It also alleges the Vick and his associates "rolled" some of their dogs -- testing them in short fights to determine their fighting ability. The dogs that failed the test were also killed. The indictment notes that most of the killing was done by the other defendents and Vick is alleged to have participated the one time only.
The indictment released on Tuesday charges that Vick was intimately involved in the "Bad Newz Kennels" and that he had bought the property in Smithfield VA expressly for the purpose of going into business with other defendents. It charges also, that between 2001 and April 2007, all of the defendents bought and trained pit bulls and hosted dogfights at that property, as well as taking dogs to six other states to participate in fights.
According to two cooperating witnesses, Vick can be placed in attendence at a dogfight in the fall of 2003 and in March of 2003, Vick personally paid $23,000 to the owner of the winning dog after it beat one of the dogs from their kennel. It is common to collect purses in the thousands of dollars as well as place side bets on the outcome of matches.
While it may have surprised the local Surry County VA officials, who were conducting their own investigation, when federal agents raided Vick's property, the move doesn't bode well for Vick and the others. A new federal law enacted last month ( a bill known as HR137) makes it a felony to organize a dogfight. If they can prove that fighting took place on the property, it will be difficult for Vick to prove that he didn't know. They also face the legal definition of "sponsoring" or "promoting" a dogfight as as the possibility that Vick can be prosecuted under Virginia law if the authorities can show that he was "aware" of the dogfighting.
Until last month, a federal dogfighting charge was a misdemeanor and would likely result in probation and a fine. The new law sets a jail term of three years and a fine of $250,000 per dog, of which, 54 were confiscated from Vick's property.
Vick has claimed that he had no knowledge of any dogfighting but there is a valid license for a kennel and the breeding of dogs for the property. That license is in Taylor's name but Vick's name is tied to a web site for Mike Vick K-9 Kennels located near Smithfield, in Suffolk VA. That website has since been taken down, but it had included a statement that none of the kennel's dogs were used for fighting. If it is found that Vick is tied to that site and that further is connected to the dogfighting, then Vick will have a few more questions to answer.
There is also the very real possibilty of other charges in the future, in relation to gambling, guns, drugs, the illegal sale of alcohol and where all the cash has gone, as in tax problems. Vick isn't the only person being pusued, it is far from just a case of trying to go after someone with a famous name. The USDA continues to investigate dogfighting and make raids in several states. While dogfighting is a felony in 48 states, Idaho and Wyoming being the only two where it is still a misdemeanor, anyone caught up with dogfights could be facing prosecution from the USDA, FBI and IRS.
Vick had been in the process of selling the property to an unknown buyer but that also may be prevented with federal charges filed. Vick could instead face forfeiting the house and the land to the government.
A judge is expected to inform all the defendents of the charges against them July 18 and make arrangemants for them to turn themselves in. If convicted of both portions of the conspiracy charge, Vick could face six years in jail and a $350,000 fine.
Dogfighting has existed for centuries and it may have had a place in society long ago.. it doesn't have a place now. It is not a "macho" sport, nor does it prove you are the best. It is a brutal way to destroy dogs that has no place in a country that has more legal gambling available that it seems we need in the first place. As for Michael Vick possibly losing his job over it....... there have been rumors before of his involvement, that should have been warning enough to him, if he really had wanted to keep playing football.
For a very informative view of the reality of dogfighting, go here.
Update: posted July 18
Michael Vick's initial hearing and arraignment have been set for July 26 2007, the same day that the Falcon's begin training camp. He will have a hearing at 3:30 pm followed by his arraignment at 4 pm in Federal Court in Richmond VA. Vick will have a bond hearing before U S District Judge Dennis W Dohnal and then be arraigned before U S District Judge Henry E Hudson, according to the U S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The indictment handed down yesterday by a federal grand jury lists at least 30 dogfights that Vick or other members of his Bad Newz Kennels operation are alleged to have participated in or attended between 2002 to 2007. The graphic indictment details how Vick, known as "Ookie" and his three co-defendents, "P-Funk", "Q" and "T" began a dogfighting ring known as BadNewz Kennels at Vick's Surry County property six years ago.