RICHMOND, Va. --- A federal judge made clear his disdain for animal cruelty when he sentenced two of Michael Vick's dogfighting cohorts to 18 months and 21 months in prison Friday.
"You may have thought this was sporting, but it was very callous and cruel," Judge Henry Hudson told Quanis Phillips of Atlanta, who received the longer sentence.
The prison terms for Phillips and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach are a little longer than prosecutors recommended, but less than the five-year maximum Hudson could have imposed.
Vick, the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback, also faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 10 for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy that operated on his 15-acre property in southeastern Virginia from 2001 until last summer.
Hudson said he believed slightly tougher sentences were appropriate. Peace's sentence is at the top of the guideline range, Phillips' in the middle.
"It's good news for Michael Vick because it shows the judge is willing to sentence within the range," said Steven Benjamin of Richmond, secretary of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
However, he said Vick still could get a sentence above the negotiated range in his case -- a year to 18 months -- if Hudson concludes Vick is more culpable than the others because he bankrolled virtually the entire operation and supplied money for gambling.
Vick's attorney, Lawrence Woodward, attended Friday's proceedings and declined to comment as he left the courtroom.
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, also attended and said he was satisfied with the sentences.
"The judge sent a pretty strong and clear message that dogfighting is a dead-end activity, and it carries some meaningful consequences," Goodwin said.
Peace, Phillips and Tony Taylor of Hampton pleaded guilty last summer and agreed to testify against Vick, prompting the Atlanta Falcons star to enter his own plea agreement a few days later. Taylor, 35, will be sentenced Dec. 14.
what's the news? The NFL Players Association asked a federal judge Friday to overturn a decision made last month entitling the Falcons to recover $19.97 million in bonuses paid to Michael Vick (left).
UNDER CONTRACT: Arguments have turned to interpretations of the NFL collective bargaining agreement.
UNION Vick earned his bonus simply by being on the Falcons' roster, and the money a player earns can't be taken back under the contract.
Gregg Levy, representing the NFL, said the roster bonus should be treated like a "signing bonus allocation," which may be forfeited.
DECISION PENDING: District Judge David Doty, who has handled cases involving the collective bargaining agreement for nearly 20 years, compared interpreting the relevant section of the contract to "alchemy." He didn't say how or when he might rule.
-- Associated Press
Purnell Peace, left, was sentenced to 18 months for his role in the dogfighting operation. Quanis Phillips was sentenced to 21 months. Federal sentencing guidelines called for prison terms of a year to 18 months for Peace and 18 months to two years for Phillips, who has 10 prior misdemeanor convictions.
-- Associated Press