NFL's Vick Indicted in Dogfighting Probe
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This next report involves a pro football star and the killing of animals. The football star is Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons. He's been indicted with three other men on felony charges related to dog fighting. Dogs were sent to fight to the death - and that was not the only way they died. We are about to describe some of the ways the dogs were allegedly killed, and we should warn you that some listeners will find the next three minutes disturbing.
Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.
TOM GOLDMAN: The connection between Michael Vick and dog fighting has been in the news since April. That's when law enforcement officials raided property Vick owns in rural Virginia. They seized nearly 70 dogs, most of them pit bulls, as well as equipment used in dog fighting. But no charges were filed and the case seemed to be petering out until yesterday. According to the 18-page indictment, Vick and three others were charged with competitive dog fighting, buying and training pit bulls for fights and crossing state lines to take part in these illegal activities. This all allegedly started in 2001 and involved thousands of dollars in betting. One dogfight listed in the indictment had a total purse of $26,000. The most disturbing allegations describe how some of the dogs were executed.
In 2003, one of the men allegedly consulted with Vick about the condition of a female pit bull who lost a fight and then killed her by wetting her down with water and electrocuting her. According to the indictment, just three months ago, Vick and two of the other alleged conspirators killed several dogs that didn't perform well. The methods included hanging, drowning and slamming at lease one dog's body to the ground.
Michael Vick had no comment last night. In April, after his property was raided, he denied involvement. In May, after authorities failed to file charges against Vick, he confidently told a Fox TV reporter his image had not been tarnished.
Mr. MICHAEL VICK (Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons): Everywhere I go, all around the world, people still support Mike Vick. So regardless of what I go through, people are going to love me, man. You know, it's all good. I ain't worried about that. My job is to win football games.
Unidentified Man: In the end, will you be exonerated?
Mr. VICK: Man, no comment.
GOLDMAN: The NFL commented yesterday. In a written release, spokesman Brian McCarthy said the activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal. Michael Vick's guilt has not yet been proven and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts.
A new player personal conduct policy allows NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discipline players before the legal process plays out. Goodell has done that with great fanfare recently. He suspended defensive back Pacman Jones for all of next season. But that kind of aggressive discipline is reserved for repeat offenders. Michael Vick is not one of them. He has been a star, a gifted athlete heavily promoted in recent years as the face of the NFL's future. But the sensational nature of the allegations against him may force Goodell to act in order to preserve the league's teetering image. If convicted on all charges, Vick and his three alleged coconspirators reportedly could be sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison each.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.