Judge: 'You were as much an abuser of animals as any other defendant'
RICHMOND, Va. -- If federal prosecutors had their way, the man who gave them most of the gruesome details about Michael Vick's dogfighting enterprise wouldn't go to prison for killing dogs and helping create "Bad Newz Kennels."
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson disagreed, saying it wouldn't be right to let Tony Taylor walk after sentencing Vick to 23 months in prison and two other co-defendants to 18 and 21 months.
"You were as much an abuser of animals as any other defendant in this case," Hudson told Taylor on Friday before sentencing him to two months in prison.
Prosecutor Michael Gill had recommended Taylor only serve probation.
Hudson agreed Taylor deserved a break. However, he said the "gross disparity" suggested by Gill was inappropriate for a person who helped develop and run the dogfighting operation and admitted killing two dogs, one by gunshot and one by electrocution.
"I realize those were inhumane and stupid decisions I did make," Taylor told the judge during his 10-minute sentencing hearing.
Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a range of zero to six months for Taylor, who was given credit for accepting responsibility for his crime.
Prosecutor Michael Gill said it would have taken much longer for the government to build a case against Vick and the others had it not been for Taylor's cooperation.
"He was the most significant source of information in this case," Gill told Hudson. "He did not hesitate in any way."
Animal rights activists had no quarrel with Taylor's light sentence.
"There are those who may feel this is the proverbial slap on the wrist, but it reflects the significant role Tony Taylor played in making a lot of information available that led to the other guilty pleas," said Randall Lockwood, senior vice president for animal cruelty initiatives for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, agreed.
"Taylor's role in bringing down Bad Newz Kennels was invaluable," he said.
According to court papers, Taylor in 2001 found the 15-acre tract that Vick bought for about $34,000 to develop into a dogfighting compound. Taylor oversaw and trained pit bulls at the Surry County site for three years before quitting because of a falling out with co-defendant Quanis Phillips and others.
"He left behind everybody involved with that and did not get back involved in that activity," Hudgins told Hudson.
Hudgins said Taylor was immediately cooperative when contacted by investigators who discovered dogfighting equipment and dozens of pit bulls at the Surry County site. Taylor never once asked "How can I get out of this?" Hudgins said.
Taylor, of Hampton, was the first of the four men to plead guilty and agree to cooperate. Phillips, of Atlanta, and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach soon followed, then Vick.
Taylor, whose prison term begins Jan. 22, also will serve three years' probation. Like his co-defendants, he cannot own dogs during that probation.
The case began in April when a drug investigation of Vick's cousin led authorities to the Surry County property. Details outlined in court papers, including the executions of dogs that did not perform well in test fights, prompted a public backlash against Vick.
Animal rights activists say the case has shed light on a brutal underground blood sport.
"It has awakened in the general public, as well as law enforcement, to the need to be alert to signs of dogfighting -- report it, investigate it, prosecute it and follow up with appropriate sentences," Lockwood said.
Pacelle said dogfighting prosecutions have increased since the Vick case began, and the Humane Society expects about 25 states to consider legislation strengthening dogfighting laws in 2008.
"We hope we're farther down the road now than ever before in eradicating this activity in the United States," Pacelle said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
VICK SENTENCED TO 23 MONTHS
Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and three years' probation Monday for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy. The suspended Falcons quarterback is looking at a scheduled release of October 2009. Story
The sentence• Vick asked judge for leniency before sentencing
• Vick sentenced to 23 months | Document (pdf)
• Poll: What do you think? | What they're saying
• Clayton: Sentence puts career in jeopardy
• Munson: Tough sentence by displeased judge
• Teammates show support at Falcons game
• Can Vick return to playing in NFL?
• Pasquarelli: No longer top of mind in Atlanta
• Last Vick co-defendant sentenced
• Podcasts : Cossack | Schlereth | Munson/Naqi | Pasquarelli
• Chat wrap: David Cornwell
Post Plea• Out of Falcons' sight, almost out of mind
• Judge's casework offers look at possible sentence
• Remaining dogs placed with rescue groups
• Source: Feds may push judge to up sentence
• NFLPA argues Vick should not lose roster bonus
• Vick co-defendants get 18, 21 months in prison
• Vick agrees to put up almost $1M for dogs' care
• Vick given April trial date on state charges
• Vick surrenders to begin serving sentence early
• Home at center of Vick dogfighting scandal sold
• Vick fires one of his lawyers in dogfighting case
• Man who sold Vick pit bull pleads guilty
• Man connected to Vick dogfight ring pleads guilty
• Third bank sues Vick, claims he defaulted on loan
• Arbiter: Falcons have right to reclaim bonuses
• PETA: Vick had class on animal cruelty
• Evaluations show 48 of Vick's dogs placeable
• Vick tests positive for marijuana
• Vick supporters turn out for town meeting
• Vick's apology notes fetch $10.2K at auction
Vick's Plea/NFL Suspension• Vick pleads guilty to federal dogfighting charge
• The plea (PDF) | Statement of facts (PDF)
• Vick's statement: Watch it | Read it
• Roger Cossack explains plea deal
• Poll: Vick should be banned
• Va. Tech, Beamer continue to support Vick
• Vick supporters drown out protesters
• NFL suspends Vick indefinitely | Goodell (PDF)
• Chris Mortensen on Vick's suspension
• Vick files plea agreement admitting to dogfighting
Indictment• Marbury's about-face: Vick 'is 100 percent wrong'
• National NAACP: Vick 'not a victim' | Audio
• Atlanta NAACP: Vick should be allowed to return
• Falcons come to terms with 'ex-teammate'
• Vick timeline | What they're saying
• Helyar: Even Atlanta turns against Vick
• Goodell: Vick not overshadowing season
• Vick co-defendant pleads guilty to charges
• Tony Taylor: Summary of Facts | Plea agreement
• Hometown residents stand by Vick
• Falcons had planned to suspend Vick
• Commish tells Vick to avoid camp
• Vick indicted | The indictment (pdf) | Civil arrest warrant (pdf)
Town Hall meeting• Town Hall chat wrap: Chadiha
Previous columns/analysis• Munson: Q&A on Vick reporting to prison early
• Munson: Looking at Judge Hudson
• Vick's high school learning lessons
• Bryant: Confounded by race issue
• Munson: Q&A about local indictment
• Munson: Next focus for Vick is length of sentence
• Schlabach: Vick an afterthought on VT campus
• Chadiha: Vick not running from truth
• Hill: Coverage means bigger issues ignored
• Wojciechowski: Pay attention to the fallen star
• Bryant: Vick's plea deal comes with baggage
• Bryant: In failing Vick, NFLPA fails itself
• Munson: Vick plea means surrender
• Forde: Vick's epic fall
• Pasquarelli: Major blow for Falcons
• Chadiha: Lots of lessons to be learned
• Wojciechowski: Punishment with teeth
• Easterbrook: Little sympathy?
• Clayton: Vick's NFL future might be bleak
• E-Ticket: A history of mistrust
• Chadiha: Vick's bad choices