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Original Issue

The Case Against Vick

SI's George Dohrmann annotates and analyzes the federal indictment to shed light on the charges

> United Statesof America v. PURNELL A. PEACE, also known as "P-Funk" and"Funk," QUANIS L. PHILLIPS, also known as "Q," TONY TAYLOR,also known as "T," and MICHAEL VICK, also known as "Ookie,"Defendants.

Peace, 35,Phillips, 28, and Taylor, 34, are acquaintances of Vick with ties to the areaaround the quarterback's hometown of Newport News, Va. Phillips played withVick at Ferguson High and later worked for Vick's marketing company, MV7.Taylor's name was on the licenses for the Vick property on Moonlight Road inSurry County, Va., that is at the center of the investigation. Ookie is Vick'smother's nickname for him.

> In or aboutMay 2001, TAYLOR identified the property at 1915 Moonlight Road, Smithfield,Virginia, as being a suitable location for housing and training pit bulls forfighting. . . . On or about June 29, 2001, VICK paid approximately $34,000for the purchase of [that] property. . . .

Vick, the firstplayer taken in the 2001 NFL draft, bought the 15-acre property 51 days aftersigning a six-year, $62 million contract with the Falcons.

> In or aboutearly 2002, VICK, accompanied by PEACE, purchased approximately 4 pit bullsfrom Cooperating Witness Number 1 (C.W. #1) in Virginia.

Four cooperatingwitnesses are mentioned in the indictment, none of whom are identified. "Iwas surprised by the number of confidential witnesses," says William Frick,an attorney in South Carolina who in 2004 successfully prosecuted David RayTant, at the time considered the No. 2 dogfighter in the United States. "Indrug cases, people talk all the time. But in dogfighting cases people don'ttalk unless you've got them over a barrel. You can have the dogs and all theequipment, but a guy can say he is just a breeder. Getting that witness iskey."

>In or aboutearly 2002, PEACE, PHILLIPS, TAYLOR, and VICK established a dog fightingbusiness enterprise known as "Bad Newz Kennels." At one point, thedefendants obtained shirts and headbands representing and promoting theiraffiliation with "Bad Newz Kennels."

Bad Newz is thestreet nickname for Vick's hometown. In the dogfighting subculture a brand nameand a reputation make for better business.

> In or aboutthe spring of 2002, PEACE, PHILLIPS, and TAYLOR traveled from Virginia to NorthCarolina with a male pit bull named "Seal" to participate in a dogfight against a male pit bull named "Maniac." . . . [Bad Newz Kennels]lost the purse when "Maniac" prevailed over "Seal."

The indictmentdoesn't give blow-by-blow details of any fights, but it's reasonable to assumethat Bad Newz and its opponents followed the so-called Cajun Rules, widelyconsidered dogfighting's bylaws. Three of the 19 Cajun Rules prevent an ownerfrom putting a substance on his dog that could impair an opponent. For example,Rule 15: "No sponging shall be allowed, and no towels or anything elsetaken into the pit by the handlers except a bottle of drink for his dog and afan to cool him with. The handlers must taste their [dog's] drink before thereferee to show that it contains no poison."

> In or aboutthe fall of 2003, PEACE, PHILLIPS, TAYLOR, and VICK traveled from Atlanta,Georgia, to South Carolina with a male pit bull named "Magic" toparticipate in a dogfight against a male pit bull owned by individuals fromSouth Carolina. . . .

The majority offights and incidents detailed in the indictment occurred during the spring orsummer or at unspecified times of the year. In 2003, however, Vick allegedlyattended two fights in the fall, his third NFL season, during which he missedthe Falcons' first 11 games because of a broken right fibula. Several otherfights are listed as having occurred "late" in a year, which also wouldhave been during the NFL season.

> In or aboutlate 2002, PEACE, PHILLIPS, TAYLOR . . . traveled from Virginia to Marylandwith a female pit bull named "Jane" to participate in a dog fightagainst a female pit bull owned by "Show Biz Kennels" of New York. Thepurse for the dog fight was established at approximately $1,000 per side, for atotal of approximately $2,000.

As a dog racks upwins, the purses for its fights rise. In the case of Jane, a dog prominentlymentioned in the indictment, the purses for her fights rose from $2,000 to$3,000 to $10,000 over the course of a year. A good fighting dog might have ahard time finding willing challengers in its area. Jane was allegedly taken toMaryland, North Carolina and New Jersey for fights, all of which she won.

> In or aboutMarch of 2003, VICK retrieved a book bag from a vehicle containingapproximately $23,000 in cash. The cash was provided to [Cooperating Witness#2] as payment for winning both dog fight matches.

The two fightsbetween dogs allegedly owned by Bad Newz and those of Cooperating Witness #2had the highest purses, including the most lucrative fight--a total purse of$26,000--and another for $20,000. On the 16 fights for which purses were given,$114,200 (not including side bets) was wagered, with Bad Newz Kennels winning$45,200 and losing $69,000. In December 2004, Vick signed a 10-year,$130 million contract, including a $37 million signing bonus--thelargest contract in NFL history.

> From in orabout late 2004 through 2005 at various times . . . PEACE, PHILLIPS, VICK, andothers known and unknown to the Grand Jury continued operation of the animalfighting venture at 1915 Moonlight Road and hosted approximately 10 dog fights.. . .

Some 30 fights arementioned in the indictment. Vick and/or others from Bad Newz Kennels allegedlyparticipated in fights in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Marylandand New Jersey. Dogs from those states as well as from Texas, Alabama, Floridaand New York fought at Moonlight Road, according to the indictment. Theallegation that the enterprise crossed state lines elevates the charges tofederal offenses. Vick could face additional charges at the state level, butnot until September at the earliest. Dogfighting is a felony under Virginialaw, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

> In or aboutApril 2007, PEACE, PHILLIPS, and VICK executed approximately 8 dogs that didnot perform well in "testing" sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road byvarious methods, including hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog'sbody to the ground.

John Goodwin,animal-fighting expert for the Humane Society of the United States, says he hasheard many tales of how dogfighters disposed of dogs who wouldn't fight but hadnever heard of someone "slamming" a dog into the ground until it wasdead. "I assume these were young dogs," says Goodwin, "because theeffort it would take to kill a full-grown fighting dog in this way would beincredible." Federal investigators reportedly found numerous dog carcasseson the Vick property.


John Ueland