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Shocking charges

Indictment against Vick describes unfathomable acts

Posted: Tuesday July 17, 2007 11:42PM; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2007 2:39PM
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By George Dohrmann, SI.com

The indictment handed down Tuesday against Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three others describes in detail how they procured a property in Virginia for the purpose of staging dogfights, bought dogs and then fought them there, and in several other states, over a 6-year period. With at least three cooperating witnesses providing the details, federal authorities compiled a detailed case that traces the birth and rise of Bad Newz Kennels.

But not a single line in the 18-page indictment will generate more rage toward Vick and the others charged -- Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor -- than a sentence near the end. It reads: "In or about April of 2007, Peace, Phillips and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

In interviews I conducted for an earlier story on the subculture of dogfighting and Vick's involvement, several experts described to me the process of "rolling" dogs. Owners take young dogs, usually puppies, and put them in an enclosed area and see how they react. They prod the dogs and urge them to get angry. If a dog shows aggression toward another dog, that's a positive. If a dog is timid, it is useless. Some fighters give away puppies that don't show the required "gameness." Other owners don't bother with the trouble of finding them a home and simply kill them.

Vick and his three associates, according to the indictment, fall in the latter category. Federal investigators allege Vick is a murderer of dogs who weren't willing to fight for his enjoyment. Even worse, his actions appear more sinister than most professional dogfighters.

"If you want to kill a dog, why exert the energy to slam him into the ground or drown him? Why not just shoot him, which is the most common method?" says John Goodwin, dogfighting expert for the Humane Society of the United States. "That is insane. These guys, if they did that, have serious problems."

Vick's problems would seem to be plentiful now that he has gone from a person of interest in local and federal investigations to one of four men charged in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., with conspiracy to commit interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture. On the Travel Act portion of the conspiracy charges, he faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The dogfighting charges carry a possible sentence of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine or both.

Still, even with the gravity of the crimes alleged, Vick's most serious problem would seem to be one of perception. If one believes the allegations against him, Vick is neither a novice dogfighter nor or a hobbyist who dipped his toe into the sport briefly. The indictment alleges Vick is a professional dogfighter who"sponsored" more than two dozen dogfights. He is not, as he previously said, someone who merely trusted the wrong people. Rather, he is the face of a bloodsport that the majority of NFL fans probably didn't know existed until the property he owned on Moonlight Road was raided in late April. And, now, he becomes the ultimate test for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his new discipline policy.

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