Vick indicted on Va. charges

Suspended QB accused of two felonies tied to dogfighting after pleading guilty to feds

September 26, 2007|By Veronica Gorley Chufo and Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer | Veronica Gorley Chufo and Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer,NEWPORT NEWS DAILY PRESS

SUSSEX, Va. -- Michael Vick's legal woes compounded yesterday, when a Surry County grand jury indicted him and three associates on local charges related to dogfighting.

About three hours after convening, the grand jury charged the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback with one count of promoting or engaging in dogfighting, and a count of beating, killing or causing dogs to fight.

Both are felonies that carry sentences of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $2,500.

"We are disappointed that these charges were filed in Surry County since it is the same conduct covered by the federal indictment for which Mr. Vick has already accepted full responsibility and pled guilty to in U.S. District Court," Billy Martin, an attorney for Vick, said in a statement after the indictments were announced.

Martin said the county was trying to hold Vick "accountable for the same conduct twice."

The Surry indictments are the latest occurrence in a legal free fall that has derailed Vick's reputation as one of the NFL's leading stars and exposed him as a central figure in a dogfighting enterprise.

Last month, Vick, 27, signed a plea agreement and a statement admitting his involvement in dogfighting. He faces up to five years in prison in the federal case with a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 10 in Richmond.

Yesterday, Surry Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald Poindexter asked the grand jury to indict Vick on eight counts of animal cruelty in the killing of poorly performing dogs, but the jury did not approve the charges. Each of those counts would have carried a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Vick's three co-defendants in the federal case - Quanis Phillips, Purnell Peace and Tony Taylor - were also indicted by the Surry grand jury on similar charges. Poindexter asked that they all be arraigned next Wednesday.

After the federal guilty pleas by Vick and his co-defendants, it wasn't clear if local charges would be sought.

Poindexter had said he wanted to prosecute Vick in Surry County but said earlier that charges might not come this month because he did not have access to evidence that federal prosecutors had, including some witnesses.

Yesterday, however, he said that while federal investigators still had a great deal of the evidence in the case, he now had the witnesses he needed to move forward.

Poindexter has said he plans to use some of the evidence, including statements from Vick and his three co-defendants in the federal case.

It's unusual to see local prosecutors move forward with their own charges after a federal investigation has secured a guilty verdict, said Anne Coughlin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

"Typically we can imagine the state being willing, or even happy to step aside," Coughlin said. "Why spend state dollars punishing him for something he's already been punished for?"

Poindexter might have been responding to pressure from the same critics who said he had been dragging his feet on the Vick case from the beginning, Coughlin said.

"It's perfectly sensible and legitimate for the Virginia prosecutors to feel that the federal charges don't adequately punish Vick for the crimes he committed in the commonwealth of Virginia," Coughlin said.

Veronica Gorley Chufo and Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer write for the Newport News Daily Press.

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