Michael Vick Dogfighting Scandal

Michael Vick (R) with his attorney Lawrence Woodward
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (R) leaves federal court with attorney Lawrence Woodward August 27, 2007 in Richmond, Viriginia. Vick pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge. Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On July 17, 2007, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick was indicted by the federal government in connection with a dogfighting operation that was allegedly headquartered on property he owned in Surry County, Virginia.

Along with three others, Vick was charged with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. If convicted on both counts, each defendant faced up to six years in prison.

Vick was also subject to a lengthy suspension by the league if connected in any way to the operation, even if he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge. He also faced the possibility of being on the hook for as much as a $28 million rebate to his employer under the league's personal conduct policy.

Leading up to his indictment, a multitude of reports were issued by the press. But as we've learned from other cases, the media doesn't always have all the facts, and they don't always have their facts correct.

So, on the one side, you had a faction of people who were quick to convict, while on the other you had those who were holding firmly to the innocent-until-proven-guilty mantra.

And innocent until proven guilty is great for a judicial system, but the court of public opinion isn't tied to that standard. The general public can put together 2+2+2 and get six. But if your high-priced lawyers get just one of those 2s ruled inadmissible in court due to a technicality, chances are the jury will not see the entire equation and could render a decision that isn't factually correct.

So, regardless of the ultimate decision by the judicial system, we are perhaps faced with a never-ending debate over this case similar to the discussions that still spring up regarding the O.J. Simpson trial more than a decade ago.

Michael Vick Photo Gallery

Latest Developments

-- On May 21, 2009, Michael Vick was released from prison after spending 19 months behind bars but remained under house arrest for another two months.

-- On December 10, 2007, one chapter of Michael Vick's legal issues was closed as he was sentenced to 23 months in prison.

-- Vick checked himself into jail on November 19, 2007, three weeks before his scheduled sentencing, amid speculation that he hoped his early arrival will draw some leniency from the court.

-- On August 27, 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges related to dogfighting and faced from one to five years in prison.

-- All of Vick's co-defendants reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors, which included pleading guilty to all charges. At the time, Vick's camp was deciding if they should follow the same course of action.

-- On July 26, 2007, the day the rest of his teammates were reporting to training camp, Vick made his first appearance in court. A trial date for November 26 was set.

-- Just days before the open of training camp, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Vick to stay away from the Falcons' training facility until the league reviews the dogfighting charges against him.

In a letter to Vick, Goodell wrote, "While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy."

Background

  • April 24, 2007: Michael Vick's cousin, Davon Boddie, was arrested in Hampton, Va., on drug charges, leading police to obtain a warrant to search his home (owned by Vick) for other drugs and paraphernalia.
  • April 25, 2007: While serving the search warrant, police discovered evidence of an alleged dogfighting operation, including rape stands, pry bars, treadmills modified for dog training, and a blood-stained carpet. Animal-control officers also removed 66 dogs from the property, 55 of which were pit bulls.
  • May 8, 2007: AirTran Airways dumped Vick as a spokesman.
  • May 23, 2007: Investigators obtained another warrant in order to search the property for buried dog carcasses, but local prosecutor Gerald Poindexter refused to execute it.
  • June 4, 2007: Reports surfaced indicating Vick's house was burglarized in early-to-mid May. Reported among the stolen were three plasma televisions (62", 42" and 32"), two floor buffers, a wet/dry vacuum, an upright washer and dryer and a leather sofa.
  • June 7, 2007: Representatives of the U.S. attorney's office in Richmond, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Virginia State Police executed a sealed federal search warrant for the Surry County property.
  • July 2, 2007: Court documents were filed alleging a dogfighting operation called Bad Newz Kennels had been headquartered at the Vick property for the past five years.
  • July 6, 2007: Federal authorities secured another search warrant for the purpose of recovering the remains of dogs buried on the property.
  • July 17, 2007: The U.S. attorney's office announced that Vick and three others had been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.
  • July 19, 2007: Nike announced they had decided to suspend the release of the latest Michael Vick line of shoes, the Air Zoom Vick V.
  • July 23, 2007: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Vick to stay away from the Falcons' training camp until the league had the opportunity to look further into the dogfighting allegations.
  • July 26, 2007: During his first court appearance in connection with the dogfighting case, Vick pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

The Indictment Says

  • Vick and his co-defendants began the dogfighting operation in early 2001.
  • Dogfights were held at the Virginia property and dog owners brought animals from six states, including New York and Texas.
  • Fights staged on the Surry County premises had purses of as much as $20,000 or more at times.
  • The formation of Bad Newz Kennels and testing of the dogs began in early 2002. According to the indictment, one of the dogs did not fight well and was shot to death with a .22 caliber pistol.
  • In March 2003, after a pit bull from Bad Newz Kennels lost in a fight, it was executed by wetting it with water and electrocuting it.
  • In April 2007, approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in testing were killed by "hanging, drowning, and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

Michael Vick Says

Initially, Vick didn't say much.

-- "I'm never at the house," he said on April 27, 2007. "I left the house with my family members and my cousin. They just haven't been doing the right thing."

After that, we didn't hear from him again until after his first court appearance, which was on July 26, 2007.

-- "Today in court I pleaded innocent to the allegations made against me. I take the charges very seriously, and I look forward to clearing my good name. I respectfully ask all of you to hold your judgment until all of the facts are shown. Above all, I'd like to say to my mom I'm sorry for what she has had to go through in this most trying of times. It has caused pain to my family and I apologize to my family. I also want to apologize to my Falcons teammates for not being with them at the beginning of spring training."

Where It Stands

Vick served 19 months in prison followed by two months under house arrest. He is currently under contract with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

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Alder, James. "Michael Vick Dogfighting Scandal." ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/michael-vick-dogfighting-scandal-1336811. Alder, James. (2017, April 4). Michael Vick Dogfighting Scandal. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/michael-vick-dogfighting-scandal-1336811 Alder, James. "Michael Vick Dogfighting Scandal." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/michael-vick-dogfighting-scandal-1336811 (accessed November 18, 2017).