Vick Likely Will Face More Charges in Va.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
A prosecutor in southeastern Virginia who is investigating dogfighting allegations against Michael Vick said yesterday he plans to seek additional state charges against the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and his three co-defendants, but is first awaiting the results of Vick's scheduled guilty plea Monday in federal court.
"My intention is to vindicate the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the people of Surry County based on what we believe happened in Surry County," said Gerald G. Poindexter, the commonwealth's attorney in the rural jurisdiction near Vick's home town of Newport News. He said the case "likely will be presented" to a local grand jury on Sept. 25, the next time it meets.
Poindexter said it is "pretty obvious" that violations of Virginia law occurred in the operations of "Bad Newz Kennels," the dogfighting operation allegedly based at a Vick-owned property in Smithfield, Va. Noting that Vick's co-defendants have pleaded guilty to federal charges, he said: "They have admitted dogfighting. That's a state crime. They have admitted killing animals. That's a state crime, and a very serious one."
But Poindexter also said in a telephone interview that Vick "has not made those admissions yet" and has not appeared before a judge. Before going forward with state charges, Poindexter added, he must also retrieve other evidence and witness statements that are in the hands of federal authorities. "I'm not going to make promises that I can't fulfill," he said.
A state indictment would be another potential legal blow to Vick, who also faces a possible NFL suspension. He is expected to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before Goodell decides what punishment the league will impose, sources familiar with the case said yesterday, adding that the meeting hadn't been scheduled yet. A guilty plea by Vick would put him in violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy, which empowers Goodell to fine, suspend or impose a lifetime ban on a player.
The head of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP urged the NFL to allow Vick to play in the league again after he serves his sentence.
"As a society, we should aid in his rehabilitation and welcome a new Michael Vick back into the community without a permanent loss of his career in football," said chapter President R.L. White, according to the Associated Press. "We further ask the NFL, Falcons and the sponsors not to permanently ban Mr. Vick from his ability to bring hours of enjoyment to fans all over this country."
Vick's attorney, William R. "Billy" Martin, announced Monday that the quarterback would plead guilty to the federal dogfighting charges and is "prepared to take full responsibility for allowing any and all of this to happen." Vick is scheduled to appear next Monday in U.S. District Court in Richmond. Sources familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is not final, have said he is expected to plead guilty to a single conspiracy count and that the recommended sentencing range will be 12 to 18 months in prison.
Vick and his co-defendants -- Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips -- were charged last month with operating the dogfighting ring. The indictment portrays Vick as deeply involved in the venture, alleging he traveled to dogfights, paid debts for bets on fights and participated in the killing of poorly performing dogs. Vick pleaded not guilty last month and is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 26.
Although the Fifth Amendment ensures that someone cannot be tried twice for the same offense, legal experts have said there is apparently no prohibition against additional state charges against Vick. The so-called "double jeopardy" clause doesn't apply, they said, because the broad federal conspiracy count involves travel across state lines and differs from potential state charges.
Dogfighting is a felony in Virginia, punishable by up to five years in prison.
The sources said the federal plea agreement does not mention possible state charges. And though Poindexter has spoken to federal prosecutors -- and he said they informed him before seeking the federal charges against Vick -- he said the state investigation is separate.
"The investigation we undertook was kind of interrupted by the federal government coming in with its own charges," he said. "It has nothing to do with state charges. There have been no negotiations, none at all."
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.