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NFL's Vick indicted by federal grand jury in dogfighting case

(AP) When a Bad Newz Kennels dog was wounded in a losing fight, NFL star Michael Vick was consulted before the animal was doused with water and electrocuted.

That’s just one of the gruesome allegations that emerged last Tuesday when the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and three others were indicted by a federal grand jury.

The four were charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.

The 18-page indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleged the 27-year-old Vick and his co-defendants began the dogfighting operation in early 2001, the former Virginia Tech star’s rookie year as the No. 1 pick.

The operation was centered at a property Vick owned in Surry County, where a fence shielded prying eyes from the back, and the two-story brick home was surrounded by fencing in the front, with several black buildings further back.

Unlike previous documents, which did not name Vick, the indictment is littered with his name, including this tidbit – Vick was known as “Ookie” in the dogfighting world.

If convicted of all the charges, Vick and the others – Purnell A. Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach; Quanis L. Phillips, 28, of Atlanta; and Tony Taylor, 34, of Hampton – face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution.

While the Falcons and the NFL said little Tuesday, John Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States said the details were especially troubling.

About eight young dogs were put to death at the Surry County home after they were found not ready to fight in April 2007, the indictment alleged. They were killed “by hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”

“Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me, and I’m a person who faces this stuff every day,” Goodwin said. “I was surprised to see that they were killing dogs by hanging them, and one dog was killed by slamming it to the ground. Those are extremely violent methods of execution – they’re unnecessary and just sick.”

Purses for the fights ranged from hundreds of dollars to the thousands, and participants and spectators often placed side bets on the outcome, according to the indictment.

After two Bad Newz Kennels dogs lost fights in March 2003, the indictment alleged Vick gave a bag containing $23,000 to the owner of the winning dogs.

Started in early 2002, according to the indictment, Bad Newz Kennels began purchasing pit bulls to train as fighters. Eventually, the defendants bought shirts and headbands “representing and promoting their affiliation.”

After an April police raid on the property, Vick said he was rarely at the house, however, and had no idea that it might have been used in a criminal enterprise. He blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity and pledged to be more careful.

He has since said very little, citing the advice of his attorneys.

But Tuesday the NFL was quick to decry the alleged animal abuse.

“The activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal. Michael Vick’s guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Vick and the Falcons are due to report to training camp this Wednesday. Vick and the others are scheduled to be arraigned in Richmond federal court this Thursday, July 26.

“Obviously, we are disturbed by today’s news,” the team said in a statement posted on its Web site, apologizing to fans for the negative publicity. “We will do the right thing for our club as the legal process plays out. We have a season to prepare for.”

Vick and the others are accused of “knowingly sponsoring and exhibiting an animal fighting venture” and conducting a business enterprise involving gambling, as well as buying, transporting and receiving dogs for the purposes of an animal fighting venture.

The indictment said dogfights were held at the Virginia property and dog owners brought animals from six states, including Maryland, New York and Texas.

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