Sunday, August 26, 2007
Michael Vick, Former Quarterback of Atlanta Falcons Gives In: Admits to Not only Gambling on Dog Fighting, but to Brutally Killing Dogs
“According to the statement, Vick also was involved with the others in killing six to eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions last April. The dogs were executed by drowning or hanging.”
Even more telling: "Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts" of Vick..."
"Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts" of Vick, Phillips and Peace, the statement said.
NFL suspends Michael Vick indefinitely
By DAVE GOLDBERG and LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press Writers Fri Aug 24, 7:33 PM ET
No matter how nuanced his confession for involvement in dogfighting, Michael Vick got no leniency Friday from the NFL.
Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Atlanta Falcons quarterback indefinitely without pay, just hours after Vick filed a plea agreement that portrayed him as less involved than three co-defendants and guilty mainly of poor judgment for associating with them.
Vick acknowledged bankrolling gambling on the dogfights, but denied placing bets himself or taking any of the winnings. He admitted that dogs not worthy of the pit were killed "as a result of the collective efforts" of himself and two co-defendants.
Goodell wasn't moved and didn't bother to wait until Monday, when U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson will formally accept the plea and set a sentencing date likely to land Vick in prison for one to five years.
The commissioner said Vick's admitted conduct was "not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible." Even if he didn't personally placed bets, Goodell said, "your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."
Goodell freed the Falcons to "assert any claims or remedies" to recover $22 million of Vick's signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.
The commissioner didn't speak to Vick but based his decision on the court filings. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell may meet with Vick in the future, and Goodell said he would review the suspension after all the legal proceedings.
"You have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL and have violated the league's personal conduct policy," Goodell told Vick in a letter after meeting in New York with Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank supported Goodell's decision and said:
"We hope that Michael will use this time, not only to further address his legal matters, but to take positive steps to improve his personal life."
Earlier Friday in Richmond, Va., a "summary of facts" signed by Vick was filed along with his written plea agreement on a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge.
"While Mr. Vick is not personally charged with or responsible for committing all of the acts alleged in the indictment, as with any conspiracy charge, he is taking full responsibility for his actions and the actions of the others involved," the defense team said in a written statement after the plea agreement was filed.
"Mr. Vick apologizes for his poor judgment in associating himself with those involved in dog fighting and realizes he should never have been involved in this conduct," the statement said.
Vick and his lawyers said his involvement was limited when it came to the enterprise known as the Bad Newz Kennels.
"Our position has been that we are going to try to help Judge Hudson understand all the facts and Michael's role," Vick's defense attorney, Billy Martin, said in telephone interview. "Michael's role was different than others associated with this incident."
Vick's summary of facts said he provided most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies, echoing language in plea agreements by the three co-defendants — Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.
When the dogs won, the statement said, gambling proceeds were generally shared by Taylor, Peace and Phillips.
"Vick did not gamble by placing side bets on any of the fights. Vick did not receive any of the proceeds of the purses that were won by Bad Newz Kennels," the court document said.
According to the statement, Vick also was involved with the others in killing six to eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions last April. The dogs were executed by drowning or hanging.
"Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts" of Vick, Phillips and Peace, the statement said.
In the plea agreement, the government committed to recommending a sentence on the low end of the federal sentencing guideline range of a year to 18 months. However, the conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, and the judge is not bound by any recommendation or by the guidelines.
Hudson has a reputation for imposing stiff sentences, according to lawyers who have appeared in his court. The judge will set a sentencing date at Monday's hearing.
Martin said Vick will "speak to the public and explain his actions." Though he declined to say when and where, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, a syndicated program based in Dallas, said it will have a live interview with Vick on Tuesday.
The case began in April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided a Surry County property owned by Vick and found dozens of dogs, some injured, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.
A federal indictment issued in July charged Vick, Peace, Phillips and Taylor with an interstate dogfighting conspiracy. Vick initially denied any involvement, and all four men pleaded innocent. The three co-defendants later pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Vick.
Taylor was the first to change his plea, saying Vick financed the dogfighting ring's gambling and operations. Peace and Phillips soon followed, alleging that Vick joined them in killing dogs that did not measure up in test fights.
The sickening details outlined in the indictment and other court papers prompted a public backlash against Vick, who had been one of the NFL's most popular players.
Animal-rights groups mobilized against Vick — even protesting at NFL headquarters in New York — and sponsors dropped him.
"It is fitting that the NFL has suspended him," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "He's now a role model for something terrible, and it's not appropriate that he suit up in an NFL uniform."
Monday, August 20, 2007
Michael Vick, Quarterback for Atlanta Falcons Finally Admits Truth: Will Plea Guilty to Charges of Supporting Grisly Dog Fighting Operation
“The July 17 indictment said dogs that lost fights or fared poorly in test fights were sometimes executed by hanging, electrocution or other brutal means. The grisly details fueled public protests against Vick and cost him some of his lucrative endorsement deals.
The case began April 25 when investigators conducting a drug search at a massive home Vick built in Surry County found 66 dogs, some of them injured, and items typically used in dogfighting. They included a "rape stand" that holds aggressive dogs in place for mating and a "breakstick" used to pry open a dog's mouth.”
Falcons' Vick to plead guilty to charges
By LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press Writer Mon Aug 20, 7:25 PM ET
RICHMOND, Va. - Michael Vick agreed Monday to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, a deal that leaves the Atlanta Falcons quarterback facing up to 18 months in prison and puts his NFL career in jeopardy.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Vick be sentenced to between a year and 18 months in prison, according to a government official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms have not yet been made final.
That would be a higher penalty than is usually recommended for first-time convicts, and reflects an attempt by the government to show that animal abusers will receive more than a slap on the wrist for their crimes, the official said.
The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will have the final say on how much time Vick will ultimately spend in jail.
Vick's plea hearing is Aug. 27.
Defense attorney Billy Martin said Vick reached an agreement with federal prosecutors after consulting with his family during the weekend.
"Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made," Martin said in a statement. "Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter."
The NFL noted in a statement that Vick's admission wasn't in line with what he told commissioner Roger Goodell shortly after he was initially charged.
"We totally condemn the conduct outlined in the charges, which is inconsistent with what Michael Vick previously told both our office and the Falcons," the NFL said.
The league, which barred Vick from training camp, said it has asked the Falcons to withhold further action while the NFL's own investigation wraps up.
The Falcons said they were "certainly troubled" by news of the plea but would withhold further comment in compliance with Goodell's request.
In a telephone interview with the AP, Martin said Vick is paying a high price for allowing old friends to influence his behavior, but he emphasized that his client takes full responsibility.
"There were some judgment issues in terms of people he was associating with," Martin said. "He realized this is very serious, and he decided to plead so he can begin the healing process."
The lawyer said salvaging Vick's NFL career was never part of the discussions.
"Football is not the most important thing in Michael Vick's life," he said. "He wants to get his life back on track."
Vick is charged with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiracy to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. He had pleaded not guilty last month and vowed to clear his name at a November trial.
The plea deal was announced just a new grand jury began meeting. Prosecutors had said that a superseding indictment was in the works, but Vick's plea most likely means he will not face additional charges.
Three of Vick's original co-defendants already have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against him if the case went to trial. Quanis Phillips of Atlanta and Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach signed statements saying the 27-year-old quarterback participated in executing at least eight underperforming dogs by various means, including drowning and hanging.
Phillips, Peace and Tony Taylor, who pleaded guilty last month, also said Vick provided virtually all of the gambling and operating funds for his "Bad Newz Kennels" operation in rural Virginia, not far from Vick's hometown of Newport News.
The gambling allegations alone could trigger a lifetime ban under the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Vick's Atlanta attorney, Daniel Meachum, told the AP that Vick is taking a chance with his guilty plea as far as his career is concerned because there have been no discussions with the league in recent days.
"There's no promise or even a request of the league to make a promise," Meachum said.
Meachum said the plea deal involves only the federal case. He said he doesn't know if there have been any discussions about resolving Virginia state charges that may be brought against Vick.
The case began April 25 when investigators conducting a drug search at a massive home Vick built in Surry County found 66 dogs, some of them injured, and items typically used in dogfighting. They included a "rape stand" that holds aggressive dogs in place for mating and a "breakstick" used to pry open a dog's mouth.
Vick contended he knew nothing about a dogfighting operation at the home, where one of his cousins lived, and said he rarely visited. The former Virginia Tech star also blamed friends and family members for taking advantage of his generosity and pledged to be more scrupulous.
The July 17 indictment said dogs that lost fights or fared poorly in test fights were sometimes executed by hanging, electrocution or other brutal means. The grisly details fueled public protests against Vick and cost him some of his lucrative endorsement deals.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Accused Dog Torturer Quarterback Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons Faces Likely Suspension for the 2007 Season for Dog Fighting
It’s heartening to see the NFL finally get serious with the thugs it has in it’s midst. Sending this message is important to making the statement that the NFL will FINALLY take these issues serious.
Sources: Vick suspension near
By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports
August 12, 2007
Two NFL sources said that commissioner Roger Goodell likely will announce this week or next the suspension of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for the 2007 season.
"That's the direction it's going and has been from the time this started," one of the sources said this week.
In July, Goodell told Vick not to report to training camp in the aftermath of a federal indictment for his alleged involvement in dogfighting on a property he owned in
What is unclear is whether Vick will be allowed to return to the Falcons this season if he is acquitted. This offseason, Goodell suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones for the entire season but added stipulations that could allow Jones to return earlier if he clears his record.
Said the other source: "The plan was to make sure it was announced before the season. Given what everybody has seen from what (league) security found and what the feds are telling us, there's really no choice."
From a public relations standpoint, the NFL would like the matter dealt with before the opening week of the season. The feeling is that if the league can resolve the matter now, any further news on Vick will not detract from the buildup to the season.
The NFL has examined the indictment against Vick at length and has conducted a quasi-investigation of its own. The league has not interviewed anyone associated with the case, but it has pored over as many public documents as it could find.
The most careful element of the suspension is how it will be worded. Under the league's new personal conduct policy, there is some belief that Vick could escape punishment because this is the first time he has been charged with a crime.
However, Goodell hinted last week that because Vick was charged with multiple counts, including gambling on dogfights, the league may have a way around that. In an interview with USA Today, Goodell said that while he was disturbed by the dogfighting accusations, the gambling aspect is just as meaningful.
"Listen, we're sickened by the allegations and the predicament Michael put himself in," Goodell said. "But there are a lot of things in the indictment that concern the NFL that may not be of a greater concern from a law enforcement standpoint."
The NFL's gambling policy, which was established long before the personal conduct policy, has resulted in the suspension of players in the past. Both Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended for the entire 1963 season after admitting they placed bets on NFL games.
Players can be banned for life for illegal gambling.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
In Belgium, Number of Animals Used in Animal Testing Increases Considerably: A Total of 756,715 Animals Were Used in Tests in Belgium
Sadly too, animal testing is not necessary.
For information on alternatives to animal testing, see
More animals used for tests
BRUSSELS – A total of 756,715 animals were used in different types of tests in Belgium last year.
This signals a slight increase in the number of test animals compared to 2005, the animal welfare department of the federal ministry of public health, safety of the food chain and environment announced on Wednesday. Animal rights organisation GAIA says this is the fourth consecutive year showing an increase in animal testing.
The animals are primarily used in the development and quality control of medicines and medical material. Last year a total of 37,739 more animals were used in experiments, an increase of 5.2 percent compared to the year previous. There was an especially marked increase in the number of mice (up 28,023), rabbits (up 9,359), birds (up 2,861) and fish (up 5,099) that were used in experiments, GAIA points out.
The number of cats used in experiments also increased significantly – by 32 percent – from 81 in 2005 to 107 last year. That is unacceptable, says the animal rights organisation, which is sounding the alarm. GAIA blames the increase on a failing government policy.
Three Animal Rights Groups Protest Abusive Treatment of Elephants by the Ringling Brothers And Barnum and Bailey Circus
For more detailed information on the abuse of elephants in circuses see http://www.idausa.org/facts/circusfacts.html
Animal Rights Groups To Protest Treatment Of Circus Elephants
SAN DIEGO -- At least three animal rights groups will protest what they call abusive treatment of elephants by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus Wednesday outside its opening night performance at the San Diego Sports Arena.
"These people treat them like the devil would," Florence Lambert of the Elephant Alliance said. "They've been abused."
Circus officials have long denied allegations of mistreatment, claiming it exceeds all federal animal welfare standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act.
Lambert went to the circus' annual walk from the train to the Sports Arena Tuesday, checking on the condition of the elephants, but said she was forced to remain in her car because employees know her as the woman who unmasked them.
"Fourteen years ago, I took a lot of photos that were incriminating. They (circus employees) shout at me," she said.
Lambert said she watched from her car, making sure the elephants were all right, and to see if she could report any violations to Animal Control.
"They (circus employees) were shouting and punching them with the bull hook," Lambert said. "But they weren't using the hooks to break the skin."
Although Lambert was a witness to the walk where she said the animals "looked so sad and just so abused," Animal Control was parked nearby, and she said the trainers were doing nothing illegal.
Other animal advocates will be in attendance tomorrow to protest elephant training practices among other issues.
The San Diego Animal Advocates said they will pass out fliers in English and Spanish on Wednesday, as well as have banners in both languages, the group's Jane Cartmill said.
During the protest, a person dressed inside a flat screen television suit will be displaying videos of what Cartmill calls elephant training.
Circus official Andy Perez said Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey encourages the public to see the elephants and other animals for themselves.
"We don't have bad trainers," he said.
The circus has trainers available 90 minutes before the show. The audience can see trainers and the animals at that time, Perez said. The circus is especially proud of its Asian elephant breeding program, Perez said.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus operates a 200-acre facility in Florida where the elephants can retire, breed and become a part of a research project to ensure their species' survival, Perez said.
Cartmill said her group will be protesting the circus for false statements of breeding elephants for conservation purposes.
"Captivity equals conservation is absurd," Cartmill said. "They should buy habitat in Asia where the elephants belong. Breeding them in a U.S. environment is not conservation."
Exotic animal ban tamed
Ryan Teague Beck with, Staff Writers
In the rush of 11th-hour lawmaking last week, a bill that would have banned private ownership of exotic animals took a quiet second trip to legislative purgatory.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ed Jones, stuck the measure into an end-of-session study bill after the proposed ban drew intense criticism. State agriculture officials, agribusiness interests and a loose coalition of private zoo and sanctuary owners, reptile keepers and trainers who conduct animal education programs in schools, churches and other venues objected to the ban.
Backed by the Animal Protection Institute, a California-based animal rights group, the bill originally would have slapped a ban on a broad range of exotic animals for public health and safety reasons -- from lions and tigers to bats, pythons, monkeys and apes. Supporters said a ban is needed to protect people from disease and prevent tragedies such as the 2003 death of a Wilkes County fourth-grader who was mauled by a tiger kept in his aunt's backyard.
But critics of the bill said it reached well beyond the laudable goal of banning backyard ownership of tigers and other large carnivores by including restrictions that would have put small zoo owners and animal educators out of business. Opponents also lambasted an earlier study committee chaired by David Jones, head of the N.C. Zoological Park in Asheboro, saying it was stacked with animal rights activists and turned in a final report five months late -- after the Senate exotic animal ban legislation was introduced.
Jones, a Democrat from Halifax County, tucked his bill into a measure that charges the Legislative Research Commission to study the proposed ban after it ran into opposition in a Senate committee and special subcommittee.
At least one member of that subcommittee, Sen. Eddie Goodall, a Republican from suburban Charlotte, questions whether supporters of the ban have proven a broad public health and safety threat from exotic animals.
"There just didn't seem to be a need to do something drastic," Goodall said.
Poaching probes go high-tech
REBECCA BOONEAssociated Press writer
CALDWELL, Idaho -- A knife with traces of blood found in a suspect's truck. A few hairs picked up at the crime scene hundreds of miles away. Authorities feared the victim was dead, perhaps already dismembered and eaten.
Dr. Karen Rudolph didn't have much time: She had to see if DNA on the bloody knife matched the scattered hair found on a rock outcropping in the Idaho wilderness. Two days later, working quickly but carefully on delicate equipment in a state laboratory, she had an answer for investigators. The DNA was a match.
The suspect was arrested and charged -- with poaching.
"Idaho poachers, until recently, were kind of your average Joe Bad Guy out in the woods doing small-fry things," said Rudolph, a wildlife laboratory biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "But now many of them literally hunt every day and night -- looking for antlers to sell so some rich guy in Jackson Hole can have an antler chandelier, or ingredients to make some strange alternative medicine or to get a trophy for bragging rights. It's become commercial."
That means more high-stakes court cases, she said, with defendants hiring top-dollar attorneys and juries expecting high-tech evidence.
And that's where Rudolph comes in.
As the state's only wildlife DNA expert, the 44-year-old Horseshoe Bend resident handles evidence for many of Idaho's poaching cases. At its simplest, Rudolph's job requires her to forensically determine the species, gender and identity of any given hunk of tissue, wayward tuft of hair, bone chip or dried splatter of blood.
In many cases, her work has helped prosecutors win convictions and encouraged defendants to plead guilty without going to trial, officials said.
In one recent case, Gary Lehnherr of McFarland, Wis., and Ronnie Gardner of Jerome, Idaho both pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally killing a trophy mule deer in Lincoln County with a high-caliber center fire rifle. Rudolph matched DNA in blood and hair found at the kill site -- in an area where only muzzleloader hunting was allowed -- with DNA from the deer's antlers, found in Lehnherr's home.
When the two are sentenced Oct. 15, they face up to one year in prison and $100,000 fines for the federal misdemeanor. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Breitsameter, who prosecuted the case, said Rudolph's work was "an important investigative tool" in the case.
DNA also helped crack the case of a man who was suspected of trying to poison wolves in Wyoming and Idaho with pesticide-laced meatballs. No wolves were found dead, but the tainted meat was suspected in the death of more than 20 pet dogs.
First, DNA from some meatballs found at a crime scene near Salmon was matched to DNA found in blood in Tim Sundles' freezer. The former Salmon resident, who now lives in Montana, was headed for trial but pleaded guilty after more DNA evidence turned up.
Investigators had taken samples of yellow snow found at the crime scene that day, suspecting that the person who left the meatballs had relieved himself at the site. They were right, Breitsameter said -- DNA from human cells found in the urine was a perfect match for Sundles.
In February, Sundles was sentenced to six days in jail, banned from federal or public land for two years and ordered to pay more than $1,500 in fines for violating the Endangered Species Act.
The use of DNA evidence in wildlife investigations is fairly new, but it's being used more and more, Breitsameter said.
"I'm not sure if that's because of people's expectations, but DNA is the modern fingerprint that people can use to attach an individual to a crime," he said. "It's only come up in the last couple of years or so here, and as it's available, it's required because it can either exculpate somebody or has the potential to inculpate them."
At the tiny cinderblock Fish and Game lab where Rudolph works in Caldwell, the mail may bring a cardboard tube filled with bear bait or a wrapped hunk of meat taken from someone's freezer. Game wardens often stumble on suspected crime scenes while they're hiking in the wilderness, Rudolph said, so they have to collect the evidence with whatever makeshift container they can find in their backpacks.
Sometimes Rudolph finds herself living something like a countrified scene from the TV crime thriller CSI.
"I've been given a bone saw that had tissue from different animals stuck between the tiny teeth of the blade. Once, I had to pick through a shop vacuum for tissue. We mostly found hair," she said. "I spent hours examining a pontoon boat for moose blood, because the officer had a tip that the poacher had been fishing the same day he killed a moose, and both the boat and the moose were transported in the same truck."
Some suspects, apparently unaware that investigators use advanced forensic techniques, get a little cocky and unwittingly help investigators, Rudolph said.
"One guy had a folding knife that a warden thought had been used in a poaching case, and when the officer asked for it, the guy laughed and said, 'Go ahead and take it. I've already cleaned it and boiled it and you won't find anything."'
Back in the lab, Rudolph was undeterred. She put a layer of aluminum foil down on the lab counter and slowly opened the folding knife. As she ran a tiny brush over the hinge, the bristles dislodged a speck of dried blood.
The sample was minuscule. But it was enough to run a DNA test and connect the knife to the poached animal, she said.
Few states have their own wildlife DNA lab, said Ken Goddard, director of the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab. So Goddard's Ashland, Ore. lab handles wildlife evidence from across the nation, as well as for some international cases.
"Maybe 8 or 9 states have one person, but have never been able to get the funding for a real lab," Goddard said. "The idea is to take what works in a human crime scene and transfer it to wildlife crime management. All labs -- human or wildlife -- try to link the suspect, the crime scene and the evidence together. But in wildlife, you have to figure out first if a crime was committed. That can depend on time of day, what side of the road someone was on and even the type of weapon used."
Ultimately, the use of DNA evidence helps keep game wardens safe by minimizing their initial contact with suspects, Goddard said.
"Before, you had to catch them with the deer or poached bear and they're generally armed at the time. That can be terribly dangerous," he said. "Now they don't have to catch people in the act -- they can just gather the evidence later."
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