Vick pleads not guilty in U.S. court

The Baltimore Sun

RICHMOND, Va. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick pleaded not guilty yesterday to conspiracy charges related to dogfighting.

Wearing a dark suit and clasping his hands behind his back, Vick said he understood the charges against him before he entered the not guilty plea and requested a trial by jury.

Vick and three codefendants who also pleaded not guilty were in U.S. District Court in Richmond for a bond hearing and an arraignment. Their trial was set for Nov. 26.

Vick, 27, a Newport News native, was indicted July 17 on charges of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal-fighting venture. Three of his friends, Tony Taylor, 34, of Hampton, Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, were also indicted.

Although the four will remain free pending trial, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal ordered them to adhere to certain conditions, including surrendering their passports, not selling or possessing any dogs, and not traveling within the continental U.S. without prior court approval.

Vick was also ordered to surrender any animal-breeding or kennel licenses, and not to reapply for them for the duration of the court proceedings.

All four men face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as three years of supervision if they are convicted on the interstate commerce part of the conspiracy charge, prosecutors said in court. If they are not convicted on the commerce portion of the charge, they could still face the animal-fighting portion, spend up to a year in jail and pay a $100,000 fine.

Prosecutors also indicated in court that the four could face additional or expanded charges in the case, saying a "superseding indictment" could be filed by next month.

A new indictment could mean that Vick would have to appear in court for a second arraignment to answer any new charges, said Norfolk lawyer Andrew Sacks, who has had extensive experience in federal court.

Sacks said it's common practice for the U.S. attorney's office to file new indictments after defendants are already in the court system.

When he left the courthouse, Vick was greeted by a chorus of shouts and boos from a group of protesters gathered outside. He climbed into a white sport utility vehicle, which drove off.

At a news conference behind the courthouse after the arraignment, one of the attorneys on Vick's legal team, William R. "Billy" Martin, read a statement from Vick. Brenda Boddie, Vick's mother, stood beside Martin as he read the brief statement.

"Today in court I pleaded innocent to allegations made against me," Martin read. "I take these charges seriously and look forward to clearing my good name."

"These are mere allegations," Martin said. "We intend to prove Michael Vick's innocence at trial. We look forward to saying to the world that Michael Vick is innocent."

Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer writes for the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press.

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