SUSSEX, Va. -- Michael Vick, already looking at a federal
prison term for bankrolling a dogfighting operation in rural
Virginia, now faces two state charges that could get him more
prison time if he's convicted.
After a Surry County grand jury indicted the Atlanta Falcons
quarterback and three co-defendants Tuesday, Vick's lawyers
indicated they will fight the state charges on the grounds that he
can't be convicted twice of the same crime.
The NFL star, scheduled for sentencing Dec. 10 after pleading
guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, faces state
charges of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs
and engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Each felony is punishable
by up to five years in prison. Arraignments are set for Oct. 3.
The grand jury declined to indict the 27-year-old Vick and two
co-defendants on eight additional counts of killing or causing to
be killed a companion animal, felonies that would have exposed them
to as many as 40 years in prison if convicted.
Vick defense attorney Billy Martin said in a statement that the
state counts concern "the same conduct covered by the federal
indictment for which Mr. Vick has already accepted full
Martin said he will "aggressively protect his rights to ensure
that he is not held accountable for the same conduct twice."
Vick was convicted of a federal conspiracy count while the state
indictment deals with the act of dog fighting, said Steven
Benjamin, a Richmond defense lawyer who is not involved in the
case. The prosecution will argue that's enough of a difference to
allow the charges to proceed, he said.
Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter had
told The Associated Press on Monday night that he would seek
indictments on different crimes than the ones Vick admitted to in
federal court. He did not elaborate to reporters outside court
The charges are the first leveled against Vick in the county
where he built a home that became the base of the dogfighting
operation, where local investigators first uncovered evidence of
None of the defendants nor their lawyers were at the Sussex
County courthouse, where the grand jury met because the courthouse
in neighboring Surry County is closed for renovations.
Poindexter told reporters he was not disappointed the grand jury
passed on the eight additional dog killing counts.
"I'm just glad to get this to the position where it is now and,
one day in the not too distant future, we will be rid of these
cases," he said.
In a written statement, Poindexter and Sheriff Harold Brown
attempted to diffuse in advance any suggestion that race influenced
the grand jury. Brown, Poindexter and the four defendants are
black, as are four of the six grand jurors.
"These are serious charges, and we can assure you that this
grand jury was not driven by racial prejudice, their affection or
lack of affection for professional athletes, or the influence of
animal rights activists and the attendant publicity," the
In pleading guilty to the federal charges last month, Vick
admitted helping kill six to eight dogs, among other things. He
faces up to five years in prison.
Vick's co-defendants had pleaded guilty earlier and detailed
Vick's role in the grisly enterprise.
In the state case, co-defendant Purnell Peace was indicted on
one count of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs
and one count of engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Quanis
Phillips was indicted on one count of engaging in or promoting
Tony Taylor, who left the enterprise several years ago and was
the first to plead guilty, faces the most serious state charges --
three counts of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other
dogs and one count of engaging in or promoting dogfighting.
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said the team had no comments
on the new charges.
The case began in late April when authorities conducting a drug
investigation of Vick's cousin raided the former Virginia Tech
star's property 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 local 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 has been indefinitely suspended without pay by the NFL and
been dropped by all his major sponsors, including Nike.