Vick's property, but not his name, cited in court documents
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/07/07
Property owned by Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was the "main staging area for housing and training the pit bulls" for a widespread dog fighting operation in at least seven states, according to a document obtained Friday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Also Friday, federal investigators executed the second sealed search warrant in a month at Vick's Surry County, Va., property.
| Officials investigating dogfighting search the grounds behind a home owned by Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in Smithfield, Va., Friday. A backhoe was brought in to dig parts of the property. Local reporters said investigators were seeking buried dog carcasses.|
The seven-page document was filed in the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va. on Monday, seeking forfeiture of 53 dogs that were seized from Vick's property on April 25.
It does not name a person, but paints a graphic picture of the multistate operation run by the group Bad Newz Kennels from 2002 to 2007 where dogs were mistreated and sometimes destroyed.
Urban Dictionary lists Bad Newz as the street name for Newport News, Va., Vick's hometown.
According to the document, two to three fights would be held on the property late at night and last for several hours. That winning purses ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
"At the end of the fight, the losing dog was sometimes put to death by strangulation, hanging, gun shot, electrocution, or some other method," according to the document. Members of the group would also "test"
dogs to see if they were "game" — meaning it would be a good fighter. Dogs not deemed "game" were put to death.
Investigators uncovered the graves of seven pit bulls who were killed by members of Bad Newz Kennels during the execution of the first sealed search warrant on June 7.
While the dog fighting investigation spread to several states, Vick's property was described as focal point for housing and training the pit bulls involved in the venture.
"From 2002 through 2007, members and associates of Bad Newz Kennels knowingly sponsored and exhibited pit bull dogs in fighting events occurring at 1915 Moonlight Road, Smithfield, Virginia; Blackstone, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and other states," it reads.
The government also alleged that Bad Newz Kennels purchased several dogs that had traveled in interstate commerce from various locations around the United States.
Vick has declined several attempts by the AJC for his comment during the investigation, citing the advice of his attorney. Vick's attorney, Lawrence Woodward, did not return a phone call on Friday. He has not returned repeated phone calls.
In his one statement on the issue, speaking from New York before the NFL Draft, Vick told the AJC he was not involved in dog fighting and claimed relatives were responsible for his trouble.
On Friday, federal authorities for the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General executed the fourth search warrant on the property.
As many as 15 vehicles with government license plates and a U-Haul truck were at the property and agents dug under a blue tarp tent filling buckets as part of an ongoing dog fighting and animal cruelty investigation. A backhoe was also brought in to dig up parts of the property.
Also at the scene were state and local police. Virginia television stations and newspapers reported that investigators were searching for buried dog carcasses.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture agent stationed at the front gate of the property would not comment. All questions were referred to James Rybicki of the United States Attorney's Office.
"We've seen the same reports that agents are on the property, but for the record we don't have any comment," said Rybicki, public information officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia.
Federal investigators arrived at the property at approximately 8:30 a.m. They left without comment at 4:30 p.m.
The USDA executed the first sealed search warrant, signed by U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, at Vick's property on June 7. Surry County officials executed a search warrant at the property in April to investigate dog fighting.
That investigation was prompted several days after local police executed a search warrant at the property in a drug investigation involving Vick's cousin. At the time of that search, police discovered 66 dogs, mainly pit bulls, and other evidence of dog fighting.
The dogs and evidence, which included a blood-stained fighting area, tread mills and documents were seized. Among the documents were three envelopes addressed to "M. Vick."
"This is an interesting development," said John Goodwin, the Humane Society of the United State's deputy manager of animal fighting issues, said of the latest search warrant. "They must have some new information."
Commonwealth attorney Gerald Poindexter was out of town on Friday morning and was not aware of the latest federal search warrant, according to his office.
Surry County Sheriff Harold Brown was also out of office for the day.
Both Poindexter and Brown have recently said that they could have enough evidence to present to a Surry County grand jury, which next meets July 24.
Vick and the Falcons report to training camp on July 25, with the first practice set for July 26.
It was reported that Vick sold the house just after the investigation began in April. However, no paper work on the sale has been filed with the county.
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