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Accusers: Vick Killed Dogs

RICHMOND, Va. – After two of his co-defendants signed documents this morning fingering Michael Vick’s participation in the execution of dogs that didn’t perform up to his expectations, the embattled quarterback appears to have agreed to a plea deal in principle and is hammering out the details, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

The source strongly emphasized that a plea deal could still fall apart before it is finalized.

When asked if Vick had made a decision, Collins Spencer, a spokesman for the quarterback’s legal defense team said “he hasn’t done anything (yet)” but said that he planned to talk to Vick’s lawyers to get the latest information.

Vick, who reportedly is facing a deadline of today to accept a plea bargain from federal authorities, was not at the United States District Court in Richmond this morning. However, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips, two of Vick’s alleged associates, entered guilty pleas in the sensational dog-fighting case that centers around one of the NFL’s most exciting players.

Both men signed 12-page “summary of the facts” documents that finger Vick in the executions of eight dogs. And in the facts document signed by Peace, there is a description of a photo of Vick posing with three co-defendants and a female pit bull they were about to sponsor in a dog fight in North Carolina.

Peace and Phillips, who joined Tony Taylor as co-defendants who pleaded guilty and could potentially testify against Vick, detailed how Vick participated in executing dogs at a house he owns in Smithfield, Va.

“In or about April 2007, Peace, Phillips, Vick and two others ‘rolled’ or ‘tested’ additional ‘Bad Newz Kennels’ dogs by putting the dogs through fighting sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road to determine which animals were good fighters,” one document said. “Peace, Phillips and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging and drowning. All three participated in executing the dogs. Peace agrees, and stipulates, that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts of Peace, Phillips and Vick.”

Phillips’ signed document also describes the alleged executions along with his agreement and stipulation that Vick participated in the executions. Peace’s document also details how he joined Vick and two other co-defendants in traveling from Virginia to North Carolina with “Jane” to participate in a dog fight against another pit bull.

“In or about the spring of 2003, Peace, Phillip, Taylor, Vick and two other individuals traveled from Virginia to North Carolina with a female pit bull named ‘Jane’ to participate in a dog fight against a female pit bull owned by “Lockjaw Kennels” from North Carolina,” the document said. “The purse for the dog fight was established at an unknown amount. Prior to this fight all four ‘Bad Newz Kennels’ members took a picture together with ‘Jane.'”

The photo and Peace’s statement became public after he and Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, entered guilty pleas, joining Taylor, who entered a guilty plea on July 30.

Both Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, and Phillips pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to cross state lines to engage in illegal gambling; to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture; and to buy, transport and receive dogs for animal fighting.

The two men will be sentenced on Nov. 30. Taylor has a sentencing date of Dec. 14. Phillips was taken into custody today for violating his parole by testing positive for drugs. Peace was released and was greeted with a smattering of jeers from a small group of protestors who stood outside the courthouse this morning when he stepped into a Ford F-150 after the hearing.

Vick attorney Lawrence Woodward was in the courtroom taking notes and was seen talking to prosecutors and defense attorneys following the hearings. Woodward declined to comment on whether Vick planned to accept a plea deal in the case, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Vick’s attorneys have been negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors and were given a deadline of today to finalize the agreement or face a “superseding indictment” that could include more serious charges under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act known as RICO. A grand jury could begin hearing those charges Monday.

If he does not accept a plea, Vick’s trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 26. It has been reported that a plea agreement could require the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to spend at least one year in prison. Vick’s acceptance of the recommendation must receive court approval.

Federal judges rely largely on congressional guidelines for sentencing.

The NFL is also trying to determine Vick’s fate. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has barred Vick from playing with the Falcons while the league conducts its own investigation on the quarterback. The league could suspend him for up to a year or more, especially if Vick is found guilty of any gambling crimes.

Vick, of Newport News, Virginia, signed a 10-year, $130 million contract – the most lucrative contract in league history – with Atlanta in 2004. He was a standout at Virginia Tech and was the first player chosen in the 2001 NFL draft.

A federal grand jury in Richmond charged Vick and the three co-defendants in mid-July with organizing fights between pit bulls on property Vick bought in 2001, and transporting and delivering dogs across state lines. Both are conspiracy counts.

Prosecutors said the maximum punishment for conviction on both counts is six years in prison and fines of up to $350,000.

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