Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Vick cohorts plead guilty, say he helped to kill dogs

AP , RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Purnell Peace, a defendant in the Michael Vick dogfighting case, arrives at court in front of protesters in Richmond, Virginia,on Friday. Peace and Quanis Phillips entered plea agreements that require them to cooperate in the government's case against Vick.

PHOTO: AP

Two of Michael Vick's alleged cohorts in a grisly dogfighting case pleaded guilty on Friday and one said the Atlanta Falcons quarterback joined them in drowning and hanging dogs that underperformed.

With his NFL career in jeopardy and a superseding indictment in the works to add more charges, Vick and his lawyers have been talking with federal prosecutors about a possible plea agreement.

Now that all the co-defendants have entered plea bargains, Vick is on his own to cut a deal or face trial on federal charges.

The court docket did not list any appearance for Vick on Friday. One of his lawyers, Lawrence Woodward, attended the hearings and declined to answer questions as he left the courthouse.

Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, entered plea agreements and joined defendant Tony Taylor of Hampton, who struck a similar deal last month. The agreements require the three to cooperate in the government's case against Vick.

Sentencing is scheduled for Peace and Phillips on Nov. 30 and Taylor on Dec. 14. Vick has been barred from training camp by the NFL and is to go on trial on Nov. 26.

A statement signed by Phillips as part of his plea agreement said Vick participated in the execution of about eight dogs, some by drowning and hanging.

"Phillips agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts of Peace, Phillips and Vick," the statement said.

Phillips and Peace also backed Taylor's assertion that Vick was involved in gambling.

"The Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were almost exclusively funded by Vick," statements by the two men say.

The charges against Peace and Phillips include conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiring to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

"Did you conspire with these folks to sponsor a dogfighting venture?" US District Judge Henry Hudson asked Peace.

Peace replied: "Yes, sir."

The offenses are punishable by up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine, but the exact sentence will be based largely on federal sentencing guidelines.

Hudson told Peace and Phillips that certain elements of their offenses will increase their sentencing ranges.

"There are aggravating circumstances in this case, there's no doubt about it," Peace told Phillips.

While Peace was freed, Hudson found that Phillips violated terms of his release by failing a drug test and ordered him jailed.

Phillips also is on probation for a drug conviction in Atlanta and the guilty plea could mean more jail time in that case, Hudson said.

Any outcome that ties Vick to betting on the dogfights could trigger a lifetime ban from the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy.

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