LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Two of Michael Vick’s co-defendants pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a dog fighting ring, leaving the Atlanta Falcons quarterback to face federal charges alone unless he to can strike a deal with prosecutors.
At the same federal courthouse where they pleaded not guilty last month, Purnell A. Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, and Quanis L. Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, accepted one felony count each related to a dog fighting ring the government says was run from Vick’s property in Surry, Va.
Both defendants pledged to help the government’s case, signing statements that would be included at a possible trial of Vick, who faces three felony charges related to dog fighting. The charges could carry up to five years in prison and as much as a $250,000 fine if he is found guilty.
A lawyer for Vick, Lawrence H. Woodward, Jr., sat in the court room for both hearings, but declined to comment on whether his client would plead today. Court officials indicated this afternoon that there are no furthur hearings scheduled for Judge Hudson.
United States District Judge Henry E. Hudson ordered United States Marshals to take Phillips into custody at the end of his hearing because he had tested positive for drugs while free on bond in the case.
“I cannot tolerate a violation of the conditions of his bond,” Judge Hudson said.
Peace remains free on bond. Both are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 30th.
On July 30, the other defendant in the case, Tony Taylor, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the others.
Unlike Taylor, who according to government documents left “Bad Newz Kennels” in 2004, Peace and Phillips remained active in the enterprise up until this year and were close friends with Vick.
According to an individual with direct knowledge of the case, Vick had until 9 a.m. today to verbally accept the government’s plea agreement. If he does not take the offer, the government will likely bring superseding charges against him which will subject him to more jail time.
The individual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said Vick’s lawyers had advised him to take the plea agreement.
“The government, by imposing a deadline for Friday on Vick and having Peace and Phillips plea the same day, has put the maximum pressure on Vick to accept the terms of the government’s plea agreement,” Christopher Bracey, a professor of law and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a telephone interview.
“The government is giving him every opportunity to avoid being the last person standing and facing the full brunt of the prosecution assisted by three of his former co-defendants.”
Vick has been asked to stay away from Falcons training camp as the league investigates the charges against him. Last month, the N.F.L.’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, appointed Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general, to look into the case and recommend a punishment.
The league has said Holder has not yet presented his findings to Goodell.
According to Douglas A. Berman, a professor of law at Ohio State University who writes the blog Sentencing Law and Policy, the sentencing guidelines for all the individuals involved are “un-chartered” territory because dog fighting just became a federal felony in May.