Sunday, July 29, 2007

Singing like a canary

Most of us at some time have watched a crime drama on television, so we can agree that usually the criminals try to all stick to the same story and wait the authorities out. If they can't get the evidence to put them all away, then the next best thing is to have one of the gang break that silence. It would seem, Michael Vick has a lot more worrying to do now.

There is a plea agreement hearing now schedualed for Monday, July 30 in the federal dogfighting case he is involved in. Vick should be worrying now, since it isn't him making the agreement. Tony Taylor's hearing was added to U S District Judge Henry E Hudson's docket Friday, a day after all four men had been in court pleading not guilty.

Prosecutors claim that Taylor found the Surry County property that Vick purchased and set up as "Bad Newz Kennels." He is also alleged to have helped purchase dogs for fighting and of having killed at least two dogs who "failed" in test fights.

Vick claimed that he was someone who had trusted the wrong people when the allegations first came to light but the evidence in the indictment states otherwise. It states that the four decided to start the kennel with the purpose of fighting dogs in 2001 and in May of 2001, Taylor found the property at 1915 Moonlight Rd, near Smithfield VA. The four then set out to purchase dogs, four from an individual in North Carolina, one fron New York and six dogs and six puppies from an individual in Richmond VA.

In September 2001, Vick and two others purchased four puppies from an individual who has since testified before the grand jury. In 2002, Vick and Pierce bought four pit bulls from another person in Virginia who is also cooperating with the government. In early 2002, they began fixing the property, training and killing dogs and it is said, Vick sponsored the first dogfights there.

As brutal as dogfighting is, it is the alleged way in which many of the dogs were killed that has many groups and sponsors concerned. These four went to great lengths to inhumanely kill dogs, rather than just shoot them as most involved in the sport would do.

Nike has suspended its contract with Vick and Reebok has stopped selling his No 7 jersey to stores. Donruss, a trading card company, has decided to pull Vick's card from any future 2007 card releases and at the moment, Vick is sitting out training camp at home.

While Vick is innocent until proven guilty, the indictment shows that he was involved in dogfighting from 2001 until April of 2007, as long as he had been in the NFL. The allegations are stomach turning for most and if they are proven to be true, I find it difficult to imagine that no one knew about his involvement and impossible to believe him when he tries to say he just "knew the wrong people."

One canary has taken the "first come, first served" offer and he may well be the nail in Michael Vick's "coffin." No one singled Vick out for prosecution, he put himself in that position it seems. He is just probably the highest profile person in a long line of dogfighters to have been arrested.

Update: posted July 30

Tony Taylor will be sentenced on December 14 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to aid in unlawful activities and conspiring to sponsor a dogfight. He told Judge Hudson that he had agreed to plead guilty with no promises of a sentence and that he was prepared to cooperate fully with the U S goverment in their case against the remaining three.

He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine under the federal sentencing guidelines but Hudson is free to depart from that and choose a lesser sentence if he chooses to. Taylor and his attorney, Stephen A Hudgins of Newport News VA, refused to answer reporters questions after the brief court appearance.

Today, leaders of the NAACP spoke out against the rush to convict Vick in the court of "public opinion." Georgia NAACP President Edward Dubose thanked Vick for his community service, money and the excitement he has brought to Georgia while playing for the Falcons. R L White, president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, stated that Vick has been vilified by animal rights groups, talk radio and the news media. He also feels that Vick has been prematurely punished by his team and by coporate sponsers. As I have posted before, many of Vick's major sponsors have pulled back the support.

The sponsors have every right to protect their product name and future profits by doing what they have done. Vick is innocent until proven guilty but public opinion can be freely expressed in this country and we are free as well to buy or not buy products based on our opinions. The case against Vick is a federal one, not made by an unknowledgable dogcatcher locally. They moved slowly in their investigation, as they have with previous arrests for dogfighting over the years and the U S government has a very high rate of conviction.

I don't believe the public opinion is fueled by an issue of race, rather by the feelings American's have for their pets. Michael Vick is a very public person who now has been accused of years of dogfighting, a bloody, cruel "sport" that many prefer to believe exists today to the extent that it does. The charges against him also reopen the old questions of athletes and the law, not just the opinions on his specific charges.

Vick is entitled to due process of the law and he will get that.... one part of it now includes Tony Taylor deciding to plead guilty within days of appearing with his other three co-defendents and assist the government. Taylor was the first to "grab for the brass ring" and I am sure Michael Vick is more than sweating what evidence Taylor will reveal.

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