In Virginia facing state dogfighting charges, Vick's involvement revealed

Updated: November 22, 2008, 11:34 AM ET
By Kelly Naqi | ESPN.com

Suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick placed family pet dogs into a ring and his trained pit bulls "caused major injuries" to the pets at Bad Newz Kennels, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released on Friday.

The 17-page report, prepared by the USDA's inspector general-investigations division, provided some new details on Vick's participation in Bad Newz Kennels, the dogfighting operation financed by Vick and formed along with his friends Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Steve Helber/POOLMichael Vick, arriving to federal court in August 2007, is isolated at the Riverside Regional Jail in Virginia to avoid disruptions.
The report, dated Aug. 28, 2008, says, "Vick, Peace and Phillips thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs." The report has names and phrases redacted in order to protect the anonymity of certain individuals who cooperated with investigators.

The report also states in mid-April of 2007, Vick, Peace and Phillips hung approximately three dogs who did not perform well in a "rolling session," which indicates the readiness of a dog to fight. According to the report, the three men hung the dogs "by placing a nylon cord over a 2 X 4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed. They also drowned approximately three dogs by putting the dogs' heads in a five gallon bucket of water."

Vick initially told authorities "while he assisted Phillips and Peace in the killing of the dogs, he did not actually kill the dogs," but "helped Phillips toss several dogs to the side," according to the report.

However, the report says Vick took back that statement when he failed a polygraph test. "Vick failed the examination as it related to the killing of the dogs in April 2007. Ultimately, Vick recanted his previous statement wherein he said he was not actually involved in the killing of six to eight dogs. ... Vick admitted taking part in the actual hanging of the dogs."

Vick, the report says, paid someone whose name was redacted $100 to dig two graves for the dog carcasses. "Based on past circumstances," the report says, "Phillips and Peace did not like [Vick] to do any type of work that could injure him and jeopardize his NFL contract." When the person who dug the graves refused to bury the animals, the report says, Vick, Peace and Phillips buried the dogs themselves.

Vick is serving a 23-month sentence in a minimum-security federal prison camp in Leavenworth, Kan., on a conspiracy charge relating to the interstate dogfighting operation he helped run on a property he owned in Surry County, Va. Vick is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2009.

Vick is currently being held in protective custody at Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va., until his hearing on Tuesday in Surry County Circuit Court to plead guilty to two state charges related to dogfighting.

The state charges -- one count of torturing and killing dogs and one count of promoting dogfighting -- each carry a maximum prison term of five years. But under the terms of his plea agreement, Vick is expected to receive a three-year suspended prison term and a $2,500 fine (which would be suspended if he pays court costs and maintains good behavior for four years).

By resolving the pending state charges, Vick would qualify to participate in the Federal Bureau of Prisons re-entry program, which could enable him to serve part of the remainder of his federal sentence in a halfway house.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, in 2007, for inmates who qualified, the average length of their time served at a halfway house was three months.

Vick, who was once the NFL's highest-paid player, has been washing pots and pans for 12 cents an hour, according to Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who has said he's kept in touch with Vick through written correspondence.

Blank said Vick also told him he's passing the time and staying in shape by playing quarterback for both sides during prison football games. Vick, 28, is still under contract with the Falcons.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely without pay on Aug. 24, 2007, and has said he will review the status of Vick's suspension following the conclusion of Vick's legal proceedings.

Vick's lawyers, the NFL and the Falcons were not immediately available for comment.

Kelly Naqi is a reporter for ESPN's Enterprise Unit and a correspondent for "Outside the Lines."

Kelly Naqi joined ESPN in September 1987, and is currently one of two full-time reporters assigned to the Emmy award-winning series Outside the Lines. Kelly also contributes to ESPNEWS and other ESPN news-gathering programs, including SportsCenter, NFL Tonight and Baseball Tonight. She is a native of Rumford, R.I., and graduated from Boston College with a bachelor of arts in philosophy.

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