|Judge schedules April 2 trial for suspended NFL star Michael Vick on 2 Va. dogfighting charges|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 27 November 2007 12:35|
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge in August and voluntarily reported to jail last week, even though he will not be formally sentenced until Dec. 10.
As he left the courthouse, defense attorney Billy Martin was asked why Vick is fighting the state charges after pleading guilty in federal court.
``I can't tell you we're fighting them, I can't tell you we're taking a plea deal,'' Martin said. ``We're going to look at this matter and give him some legal advice, and that has not been decided yet.''
Vick was not in a Sussex courtroom Tuesday when Surry County Circuit Judge Samuel Campbell set Vick's trial date during a five-minute consultation with defense attorneys Lawrence Woodward and Martin and prosecutor Gerald Poindexter.
Vick, who's being held at a Warsaw, Va., jail, faces up to five years in prison for his federal conviction.
The two state charges - beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs, and engaging in or promoting dogfighting - also are punishable by up to five years in prison each.
Vick's lawyers previously indicated they would fight the state charges on the grounds he can't be convicted twice of the same crime. Woodward declined to discuss that strategy before Tuesday's court proceedings.
Campbell also set trial dates of March 5 for co-defendants Quanis L. Phillips and Purnell A. Peace and a May 7 trial for Tony Taylor.
Vick and the three co-defendants pleaded guilty to the federal charge in U.S. District Court in Richmond. In an Aug. 27 plea agreement, Vick admitted bankrolling a dogfighting enterprise and providing gambling money, as well as helping to kill six to eight dogs.
In another development, Vick agreed to federal prosecutors' demand that he set aside about $928,000 for the care of pit bulls seized from the dogfighting operation.
Prosecutors last week filed court papers seeking a freeze on money, saying they were concerned about Vick's ``deteriorating financial condition.'' Several creditors are suing Vick for more than $5 million, and an arbitrator has ruled he should repay the Falcons nearly $20 million in bonus money.
A consent order entered Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Richmond says Vick has agreed to place the money in an escrow account maintained by Martin's law firm. The money must be deposited by Friday.
The dogfighting operation known as Bad Newz Kennels operated since 2001 on Vick's 15-acre spread in Surry County. A drug investigation of a Vick relative led authorities to the property, where they found more than 50 pit bulls and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.
Tuesday, 10 protesters from the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood outside the courthouse in rural southeastern Virginia. They held placards with pictures of injured dogs and the messages ``Report Dogfighters!'' and ``Dogs Deserve Justice.''
``The message is loud and clear, that all dogfighters must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, no matter who they are,'' PETA protester Melissa Karpel said.