RICHMOND, Va. – Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges related to illegal dogfighting.
Vick and three others are charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
The dogfighting operation was named “Bad Newz Kennels,” according to the indictment, and the dogs were housed, trained and fought at a Surry County, Va., property owned by Vick.
The indictment alleges that the 27-year-old Vick and his co-defendants began a grisly dogfighting operation in early 2001 in which dogs fought to the death – or close. If convicted, Vick and the others – Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor – could face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution.
Telephone messages left at the offices and home of Vick’s attorney, Larry Woodward, were not immediately returned.
“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.”
After an initial raid in April, Vick said he was rarely at the house, had no idea it may have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity.
About eight young dogs were put to death after they were found not ready to fight in April 2007. They were killed “by hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground,” according to the indictment.
The FBI and local authorities have been investigating the allegations since an April 25 drug raid at the property Vick owned.
Authorities seized 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and equipment used in dogfighting. About half the dogs were tethered to car axles with heavy chains that allowed the dogs to get close to each other, but not to have contact – an arrangement typical for fighting dogs, according to the search warrant affidavit.
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