Dogfighting’s Michael Vick – Redux

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF's Chief Contract Attorney on June 16, 2008

Well, nearly a year has gone by since I wrote about the federal authorities
charging now-former NFL Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick with
conspiracy for his Virginia dogfighting ring operated under the name
Bad Newz Kennels.  As you may recall, the federal authorities (feds)
had to step in and take over the investigation from Surry County
Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter, who could have taken
action much earlier against the dog fighting on a state level by
bringing charges of animal cruelty and fighting, but failed to do so.
What’s happened in the meantime? Not much legally, and lots
politically.

To recap, in April 2007, police went to a home in
Virginia owned by Vick with a search warrant related to a drug
investigation involving Vick’s cousin. While there, they found evidence
of dog fighting and hauled away 66 pit bulls. In late May 2007,
Poindexter refused to execute a dog fight search warrant prepared by
local investigators based on the prior drug search, stating he didn’t
like the wording of the warrant. He also refused to act on offers of
assistance and entreaties to take action from ALDF’s Criminal Justice
Program, HSUS, Virginia’s Animal Control Association President and dog
fight expert Mark Kumpf, and others.

On June 6th and again in early July 2007, the feds
conducted land and air searches of Vick’s estate under a federal search
warrant, and on July 17th charged Vick and 3 others with conspiracy to
travel in interstate commerce to aid in dog fighting. Also in July 2007
Robin Starr, the head of the Richmond Virginia SPCA, alleged in a guest
column in the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper that "The local
prosecutor, Gerald Poindexter, may have dragged his feet on executing
search warrants in an apparent effort to protect the county’s local
star, and has suggested that the interest of the federal authorities
was in persecuting an African-American celebrity." He was quoted as
saying that ‘this case, in terms of its priority, if it were not for
the celebrity status of Vick, it wouldn’t mean much to me.’ Poindexter
continued to contradict himself in media interviews for the next
several months, alternately stating that the evidence was insufficient,
or that the feds were keeping evidence from him, despite having had the
case for months before the feds stepped in.

In August 2007 the 4 men entered guilty pleas in
federal court accompanied by detailed fact summaries of their criminal
activities. Either shamed or goaded into taking action and perhaps
realizing he had an election coming up, Poindexter finally announced in
September that he had obtained a grand jury indictment of 1 count each
of cruelty and fighting, both as felonies. Curiously, 8 other counts
based on the federal court admissions to killing at least 8 dogs were
rejected by the grand jury. Given that grand juries usually approve
indictments presented by prosecutors, and those 8 counts were based on
sworn written documents filed in federal court, one must wonder what
the heck kind of case was presented by Poindexter to the grand jurors.

Incredibly, Surry County Sheriff Harold Brown, as
well as Poindexter, were both re-elected in November 2007. Bill
Brinkman, the case’s chief investigator at the sheriff’s office who
assisted the feds and complained about Poindexter’s mishandling of the
case and of his troubling statements concerning race, was "released
from his position" in December after 9 years on the job. Brown admitted
in a recent news report that part of the reason Brinkman was let go had
to do with the Vick case. Brinkman stated that Brown told him a week
into the investigation that Poindexter wanted him fired. Poindexter
denies it.

Vick reported early to prison in November and was
sentenced to 23 months in prison in December, but not before violating
the terms of his pretrial release by using drugs and getting caught by
the court. In January 2008 he was moved to a prison in Leavenworth
Kansas known for having a drug treatment program that would greatly
shorten his sentence, but neither Vick nor the prison ever confirmed he
was in it.

So is it any surprise at all that last week
Poindexter again moved to continue the defendants’ trials until some
vague future date after which the defendants have been released from
federal prison, stating that it would cost the state too much to round
them up and transport them back for trial? After all, this isn’t the
first continuance requested by Poindexter. Late last March he was in
court requesting continuances of the trials then set for April. He was
joined in that request by the defense, and Vick’s trial was pushed to
June 27th.  (Why that date? Was he secretly to be released by then due
to the drug program and good behavior? If not, why wouldn’t Poindexter
have asked then for the date to be set post-release, instead of waiting
until now and having to apply again for a continuance?)

Of even more concern, however, is that in court
last week, there was no mention that Vick had joined in the motion to
push the trial to "a date uncertain" (in lawyer talk). Perhaps news
reports simply omitted mentioning whether the defense agreed to the
delay. If not, I’m just waiting for Vick to make his claim that his
constitutional right to a speedy trial– which would be waived if he
agreed to the delay as he did in March–was violated. Then Poindexter
would be off the hook from ever having to try this case; but at least
by now his reelection campaign is long over. My guess is he’ll retire
before he has to account for himself when his current 6-year term of
office is over.


4 thoughts on “Dogfighting’s Michael Vick – Redux

  1. omaraco87 says:

    In my opinion I consider that it is as bad as it can get to allow a dog fight. Those animals suffer a lot, and the only one taking advantage of that is his owner. The winner takes a bunch of money.

    Its not fair!

    Omar
    Virginia Drug Treatment

  2. siva says:

    I think it is bad.Animal will suffer for these case.
    ————
    siva

    virginia drug rehab

  3. Vanessa Wood says:

    Surely Poindexter should be fired, or at least investigated, for deliberately stalling and not doing the job he is employed to do? And whilst those investigating are at it, perhaps they could search his home for evidence of dog fighting / memorabelia or videos as his actions (and inactions) sound like those of someone who enjoys dogfighting to me…

  4. ray reynolds says:

    Amazing.

    The feds got involved simply because the state and county were about to let the warrant expire.