Falcons' Vick indicted by grand jury in dogfighting probe
ESPN.com news services
Michael Vick has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the dogfighting probe of his property in Virginia.
The indictment alleges that Vick and his co-defendants began sponsoring dogfighting in early 2001, the former Virginia Tech star's rookie year with the Falcons.
The Falcons quarterback was indicted for conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Richmond, Va. Three others -- Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor -- also were indicted by the grand jury on the same charges.
According to a news release from the United States Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Virginia: "If convicted on the Travel Act portion of the conspiracy charge, each defendant faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and full restitution. If convicted on the animal fighting venture portion of the conspiracy charge, each defendant faces one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both. The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking recovery of any property constituting, or derived from, proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of these offenses."
Telephone messages left at the offices and home of Vick's attorney, Larry Woodward, were not immediately returned.
A woman who answered the phone at the home of Vick's mother said the family knew nothing about the charges.
According to the indictment, dog fights were held at several locations in other parts of Virginia as well as North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey. The indictment says a purse was set for each fight, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. There were also side bets made.
The indictment also claims that in the summer of 2002, at various times, Peace, Phillips, Taylor and Vick performed "testing" sessions at the property in Smithfield. After the testing, the indictment says, dogs that performed poorly were put to death by Peace, Phillips or Taylor. In April 2007, the indictment says, an additional "testing" session was performed by Peace, Phillips and Vick. Afterward, it claims eight dogs were hanged, drowned and/or slammed to the ground and killed.
"We are disappointed that Michael Vick has put himself in a position where a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
"The activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal. Michael Vick's guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts."
On July 7, federal authorities conducted a second search of the Surry, Va., property owned by Vick that is the center of the dogfighting investigation.
According to court documents filed by federal authorities earlier after that search, dogfights have been sponsored by "Bad Newz Kennels" at the property since at least 2002.
Fifty-four pit bulls were recovered from the property during searches in April, along with a "rape stand," used to hold dogs in place for mating; an electric treadmill modified for dogs; and a bloodied piece of carpeting, the documents said.
During a June search of the property, investigators uncovered the graves of seven pit bulls they allege were killed by members of Bad Newz Kennels after testing sessions.
On Vick's Web site, he lists his birthplace as Newport News, "a.k.a. BadNews."
The documents said the fights usually occurred late at night or in the early morning and would last several hours.
Before fights, participating dogs of the same sex would be weighed and bathed, according to the filings. Opposing dogs would be washed to remove any poison or narcotic placed on the dog's coat that could affect the other dog's performance.
Sometimes, a dog wouldn't be fed to "make it more hungry for the other dog."
Fights would end when one dog died or with the surrender of the losing dog, which sometimes was put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gunshot, electrocution or some other method, according to the documents.
Vick initially said he had no idea the property might have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity.
Vick has since declined to talk about the investigation.