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Falcons' Vick indicted by grand jury in dogfighting probe

RICHMOND, Va. -- NFL star Michael Vick was indicted by a
federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting
operation so grisly the losers either died in the pit or sometimes
were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback and three others were charged
with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for
fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.

The operation was named "Bad Newz Kennels," according to the
indictment, and the dogs were housed, trained and fought at a
property owned by Vick in Surry County, Va.

Vick and the other three defendants will appear in district court in Richmond on July 26.

Vick, Purnell Peace, Tony Taylor and Quanis Phillips will appear before a magistrate judge, Dennis Dohnal, at 3:30 p.m. for bond and at 4 p.m. in front of Judge Henry Hudson for arraignment.

The 19-page federal indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court
for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges the 27-year-old Vick
and his co-defendants began the dogfighting operation in early
2001, the former Virginia Tech star's rookie year with the Falcons.

The indictment states that dogs fought to the death -- or close
to it.

If convicted, Vick and the others
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 returned. A woman who answered
the phone at the home of Vick's mother said "no comment" and hung
up.

"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."

Vick and the Falcons are scheduled to report to training camp on
July 25.

"Obviously, we are disturbed by today's news," the team said
in a statement posted on its Web site, apologizing to fans for the
negative publicity.

"We will do the right thing for our club as the legal process
plays out. We have a season to prepare for," it said.

John Goodwin of the Humane Society said the manner in which
losing or unwilling dogs were killed was especially troubling.

"Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me,
and I'm a person who faces this stuff every day," he said. "I was
surprised to see that they were killing dogs by hanging them and
one dog was killed by slamming it to the ground. Those are
extremely violent methods of execution -- they're unnecessary and
just sick."

Vick and the others are accused of "knowingly sponsoring and
exhibiting an animal fighting venture" and conducting a business
enterprise involving gambling, as well as buying, transporting and
receiving dogs for the purposes of an animal fighting venture.

About eight young dogs were put to death at the Surry County
home after they were found not ready to fight in April 2007, the
indictment said. They were killed "by hanging, drowning and/or
slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

The indictment also outlined a rough chronology:

• In March 2003, after a pit bull from Bad Newz Kennels lost in
a fight, it said Peace consulted with Vick about the losing dog's
condition, then executed it by wetting it with water and
electrocuting it;

• In March 2003, after two Bad Newz Kennels dog lost fights to
dogs owned by a cooperating witness, it alleged that Vick retrieved
a bag containing $23,000 and gave it to the owner of the winning
dogs. One of the fights had a $20,000 purse;

• In the fall of 2003, a person witnessing a dog fight involving
one of the dogs trained by Bad Newz Kennels incurred the ire of
another cooperating witness by yelling out Vick's name in front of
the crowd during the fight.

It also said that after establishing Bad Newz Kennels in early
2002, Vick and the others obtained shirts and headbands promoting
their affiliation with the kennel.

After a police raid on the property in April, Vick said he was
rarely at the house, had no idea it may have been used in a
criminal enterprise. He blamed family members for taking advantage
of his generosity.

On Vick's Web site, he lists his birthplace as Newport News,
"a.k.a. BadNews."

Purses for the fights ranged from hundreds of dollars to the
thousands, and participants and spectators placed side bets, the
document said.

Local authorities have been investigating the allegations since
the April 25 drug raid at the property Vick owned. On June 7,
officials with the Department of Agriculture executed their own
search warrant and found the remains of seven dogs.

Surry County prosecutor Gerald G. Poindexter said he didn't know
of the indictment before it was filed, and said he's not sure how
the county will continue its case.

At the start, authorities seized 66 dogs, including 55 pit
bulls, and equipment commonly 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.

The indictment said dogfights were held at the Virginia property
and dog owners brought animals from six states, including New York
and Texas.

In a search warrant executed July 6, the government 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, dogs weren't fed to "make it more hungry for the
other dog," it said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.