Vick suffers additional blows

Associated Press
Co-defendants of Falcons QB Michael Vick will enter plea agreements later this week.

RICHMOND, Va. - What started out as another day stuck in a standstill regarding the status of Michael Vick was ultimately set in motion.

 

Vick's remaining two co-defendants in a federal dogfighting case scheduled hearings to enter plea agreements on Monday.

Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips will appear in federal court in Richmond on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Earlier, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had yet to complete its investigation of the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and commissioner Roger Goodell hadn't made a decision on whether to use the NFL's personal conduct policy to suspend Vick for the 2007 season.

Another of Vick's original co-defendants, Tony Taylor, pleaded guilty July 30 to his role in a dogfighting conspiracy he says was financed almost entirely by Vick.

As part of a plea agreement, Tony Taylor pledged to fully cooperate with the government in its prosecution of Vick, Peace and Phillips, who are accused of running an interstate dogfighting enterprise known as "Bad Newz Kennels" on Vick's property in rural Surry County.

Peace's lawyer, Claire Cardwell, and Phillips' attorneys, Franklin Swartz and Jeffrey A. Swartz, did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

Collins R. Spencer III, a spokesman for Vick's defense team, said the lawyers were surprised by the plea deals.

"They didn't see it coming," Spencer said.

He added, "The only other comment that they want to make is that this won't affect the way they proceed with the case. We're moving forward with taking the case to trial on Nov. 26."

He also said they assume the two agreed to cooperate with the government.

Federal prosecutors have said a superseding indictment would be issued this month, meaning Vick, Peace and Phillips could face additional charges.

Taylor's plea deal required him to testify against Vick and the other two, but shielded him from getting a stiffer sentence or facing any new charges.

Taylor, 34, of Hampton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiring to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

Vick and the others pleaded not guilty to the same charges in July.

The gruesome details outlined in the July 17 indictment have fueled public protests against Vick and prompted the suspension of some of his lucrative endorsement deals. Also, Goodell has barred Vick from the Falcons' training camp.

The summary of facts signed by Taylor supports the indictment's claims that the dogfighting ring executed underperforming dogs by drowning, hanging and other brutal means.

Vick, 27, attended several dogfights in Virginia and other states with his partners, according to the statement. Prosecutors claim the fights offered purses as high as $26,000.

Taylor will be sentenced Dec. 14. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines likely will call for less.

Falcons coach Bobby Petrino said he has not spoken with his players about Vick's troubles since camp opened.

"I'm not ready to respond to anything regarding Michael because I know nothing new," Petrino said.

Falcons running back Warrick Dunn, Vick's teammate since 2002, said he recently spoke with the 27-year-old quarterback to offer his support. Dunn added, however, that the players have no choice but to move ahead and prepare for the Sept. 9 season opener at Minnesota.

"I don't think anybody on this team right now is hoping that Mike comes back," Dunn said. "If he comes back, that's great, but I just think right now we're at a point where the guys that are here are trying to get better and move on down the road. Mike is going to be missed and has been missed, but at the same time you have to go on."

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