Grand jury indicts Vick, co-defendants
September 25, 2007
SUSSEX, Va. ” Michael Vick and three co-defendants were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on state charges related to a dogfighting ring operated on Vick’s Virginia property.
Vick, who already pleaded guilty in federal court to a dogfighting conspiracy charge and is awaiting sentencing on Dec. 10, was indicted for beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting.
The grand jury declined to indict the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and two co-defendants on eight counts of killing or causing to be killed a companion animal, which would have exposed them to as many as 40 years in prison if convicted.
Any animal cruelty charge in Virginia is punishable by up to five years in prison. And in a written plea for the federal case, Vick admitted helping kill six to eight dogs at the Surry County property. Similarly, the three co-defendants in the case have admitted their involvement and detailed what they claim was Vick’s role.
For county law enforcement officials who started the investigation with a raid on Vick’s property in late April, those signed statements provided ample evidence to support further prosecution.
Surry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter asked that the four be arraigned Oct. 3 and requested that each be released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond. None of the defendants nor their lawyers were in court.
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The charges are the first leveled against Vick in the county where he built a home on 15 acres that was the base of the dogfighting operation.
A defense attorney who was at the courthouse Tuesday said he was “befuddled” when he learned the grand jury had passed on indicting Vick and the others on animal cruelty charges.
“There’s something going on here that I don’t understand,” said Joe Pennington, a Norfolk defense attorney who was at the courthouse.
“The grand jury is generally regarded by defense attorneys as a rubber stamp.”
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said the team had no comments on the new charges.
The case began when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick’s cousin raided the former Virginia Tech star’s property in April and seized dozens of dogs, most of them pit bulls, and equipment commonly associated with dogfighting.
Six weeks later, with the local investigation perceived to be dragging and a search warrant allowed to expire, federal agents arrived with their own search warrants and started digging up dog carcasses buried days before the first raid.
Poindexter, widely criticized for the pace of the investigation, reacted angrily when the feds moved in, suggesting that Vick’s celebrity was a draw, or that their pursuit of the case could have racial overtones. He later eased off those comments, saying the sides would simply be pursuing parallel investigations.
Vick, who faces up to five years in federal prison, has been indefinitely suspended without pay by the NFL and been dropped by all his major sponsors, including Nike.
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