POSTED 5:29 p.m. EDT; LAST UPDATED 6:38 p.m. EDT, July 17, 2007
VICK IS INDICTED
Falcons quarterback Mike Vick has been indicted on multiple charges by a federal grand jury in Virginia.
The charges are, per ESPN.com (which not long ago declared Vick was unlikely to be indicted), "conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in animal fighting venture."
Three others were indicted as well -- Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor. Phillips' name appeared as a contact person on Vick's K-9 Kennels web site.
The indictment is available on the web site of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A press release regarding the charges is available here.
There is only one count, for now -- conspiracy. In order to be guilty of conspiracy, the government doesn't have to prove that the defendants committed the underlying illegal acts, but only that they intended to do so, and that they accomplished one or more overt acts in order to reach their goals.
Under Title 18, Section 371 of the U.S. Code, the penalty for conspiracy is up to five years in prison. If, however, the underlying crime is a misdemeanor, the punishment for conspiracy may not exceed the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor offense.
The indictment alleges at paragraph 1 that Peace (a/k/a "P-Funk"), Phillips (a/k/a "Q"), Taylor (a/k/a "T"), and Vick (a/k/a "Ookie" -- we're not kidding) conspired to: (1) travel in interstate commerce and use the mail or any facility in interstate commerce to promote, manage, etc. a business enterprise involving gambling; (2) knowingly sponsor an animal moved in interstate commerce in an animal fighting venture; (3) knowingly transport a dog for the purposes of having the dog participate in an animal fighting venture.
The allegation regarding the use of interstate commerce to promote a business enterprise involving gambling is key. Under Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 1952, which is titled "Interstate or foreign trade or travel in aid of racketeering enterprises," the maximum penalty is 20 years behind bars. At the time the events transpired, dog fighting was only a misdemeanor. Absent the gambling/racketeering angle, then, Vick would not be facing up to five years, but only the misdemeanor sentence for dog fighting.
Here are some highlights from the 18-page indictment. All of the following statements are based on allegations contained in the document.
The indictment identifies four "cooperating witnesses," without naming them. As we previously explained, the detail contained in the federal complaint filed earlier this month indicated that someone was spilling the beans as to the specifics of the operation. As it turns out, there are at least four such someones.
The conspiracy began in early 2001 and continued through April 25, 2007, the day on which Vick's Surry County, Virginia property was first searched by local authorities.
In May 2001, Taylor identified the property on Moonlight Road in Surry County as a suitable location for housing and training pit bull terriers for fighting. Thereafter, Vick and the others purchased approximately 26 dogs from locations inside and outside of Virginia.
The "Bad Newz Kennels" were established by Vick and the others in early 2002, and at one point the group obtained shirts and headbands representing their affiliation with "Bad Newz Kennels." The Vick property on Moonlight Road in Surry County thereafter became the location of the venture.
"Testing" of the dogs began in February 2002. One of the dogs did not fight very well. It was shot to death with a .22 caliber pistol.
Additional dogs that did not perform well in "testing" sessions were executed in the summer of 2002, with three shot and one electrocuted.
Fighting also began in 2002, with a trip to North Carolina. Vick's Surry County property hosted its first dog fight in late 2002.
The process continued, with purses as high as $20,000.
In March 2003, Peace allegedly electrocuted a female pit bull that had lost a fight after consulting on the matter with Vick. Peace shot another losing dog that same month.
The most graphic misconduct allegedly occurred not long before the first search of the property. According to paragraph 83 of the indictment, Vick, Peace, and Phillips executed in April 2007 approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in "testing" sessions, by "hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."
In other words, in the same month in which Vick declared that he never goes to his Surry County property, and the same month in which he sat face-to-face with the Commissioner, Vick had (according to the indictment) participated in the killing of as many as eight dogs deemed unfit for fighting.
So what next? After digesting this information, the NFL and the Falcons will have some tough decisions to make. And we think that both organizations will soon be facing strenuous pressure from animal rights groups to take swift and decisive action against Mr. Vick.