Vick Is Indicted On State Charges

Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter makes his way past media members after state charges were filed against Michael Vick.
Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter makes his way past media members after state charges were filed against Michael Vick. (By Steve Helber -- Associated Press)
By Jerry Markon and Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three co-defendants were indicted again yesterday, this time on state charges stemming from their operation of a dogfighting ring at Vick's property in southeastern Virginia.

A grand jury in Surry County, Va., indicted Vick on one count of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and one count of engaging in or promoting dogfighting. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, time that could be served in addition to the 12 to 18 months he is expected to receive in December as a result of his guilty plea on similar charges in federal court.

Grand jurors declined to indict Vick on eight additional counts -- of killing dogs or causing them to be killed -- that prosecutors had presented. Those could have landed the star quarterback in prison for an additional 40 years.

The latest chapter in Vick's legal woes came a month after he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Richmond and then solemnly apologized to the NFL, his team and the youth of America. He has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL, marking one of the most precipitous falls for an athlete in the prime of his playing career.

Vick's lawyers vowed in a statement yesterday to examine the state charges and "aggressively protect his rights to ensure that he is not held accountable for the same conduct twice." William R. "Billy" Martin, Vick's Washington-based lead attorney, said in the statement, "We are disappointed that these charges were filed in Surry County since it is the same conduct covered by the federal indictment."

Prosecutors in Surry County did not return telephone calls.

Legal experts said yesterday that it's unclear whether the Fifth Amendment's ban on double jeopardy -- trying someone twice for the same offense -- would apply to Vick. The question is likely to be a key legal issue in the state case.

Typically, experts said, only multiple prosecutions for the same offense in the same jurisdiction would violate a defendant's rights. "The rule has always been that if you have two independent jurisdictions -- federal and the state in this case -- double jeopardy doesn't apply," said Paul Marcus, a law professor at the College of William & Mary.

But a section of Virginia law says that if "the same act" violates both federal and state law, a federal prosecution would bar a subsequent state case. "The crucial question is whether the Virginia prosecution is for the same acts," said Anne Coughlin, a University of Virginia law professor. "It's going to depend on how a judge construes that phrase."

Vick and his co-defendants -- Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips -- pleaded guilty in federal court to a single conspiracy count for operating Bad Newz Kennels, the dogfighting venture they started in 2001. Federal court documents left unclear Vick's precise role in the conspiracy.

In those documents, Vick admitted that he agreed to the killing of six to eight dogs through the "collective efforts" of him and his co-conspirators. He did not admit to actually participating in the killing.

Vick also acknowledged that he provided most of the gambling money for dogfights that had purses in the thousands of dollars, but federal court documents do not say that he placed bets. They also do not indicate that he profited from the fights, saying instead that his co-conspirators pocketed winning purses.

Along with Vick, Peace was indicted yesterday on one count of beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and one count of engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Phillips was indicted on one count of engaging in or promoting dogfighting. Taylor faces four counts -- three for beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and one for engaging in or promoting dogfighting.

The state indictment provides little information beyond the federal court documents.

Vick and his co-defendants each remained free on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 3.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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