July 17, 2007— -- Michael Vick has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the dogfighting probe of his property in Virginia.
The Falcons quarterback was indicted for conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Richmond, Va. Three others -- Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor -- also were indicted by the grand jury on the same charges.
According to court documents filed by federal authorities earlier this month, dog fights have been sponsored by "Bad Newz Kennels" at the property since at least 2002. For the events, participants and dogs traveled from South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Texas and other states.
Members of the venture also knowingly transported, delivered and received dogs for animal fighting, the documents state.
Fifty-four pit bulls were recovered from the property during searches in April, along with a "rape stand," used to hold dogs in place for mating; an electric treadmill modified for dogs; and a bloodied piece of carpeting, the documents said.
The property was used as the "main staging area for housing and training the pit bulls involved in the dog fighting venture," according to the filings.
The documents said the fights usually occurred late at night or in the early morning and would last several hours. The winning dog would win from "hundreds up to thousands of dollars," and participants and spectators also would place bets on the fight.
Before fights, the participating dogs of the same sex would be weighed and bathed, according to the filings. Opposing dogs would be washed to remove any poison or narcotic placed on the dog's coat that could affect the other dog's performance. Sometimes participants would not feed a dog before the fight to "make it more hungry for the other dog," the documents said.
Fights would end when one dog died or with the surrender of the losing dog, which was sometimes put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gun shot, electrocution or some other method, according to the documents. The property has an above-ground swimming pool, and investigators were seen looking into the pool Friday.
During a June search of the property, investigators uncovered the graves of seven pit bulls that were killed by members of "Bad Newz Kennels" following sessions to test whether dogs would be good fighters, the documents said.
Members of "Bad Newz Kennels" also sponsored and exhibited fights in other parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and other states, the filings said.
On June 7, federal law enforcement officials descended on the property with a search warrant. More than a dozen vehicles went to the home early that day and investigators searched inside before turning their attention to the area where officials found dozens of dogs in late April and evidence that suggested the home was involved in a dogfighting operation.
Surry County officials had secured a search warrant in late May based on an informant's information to look for as many as 30 dog carcasses buried on the property. The warrant never was executed because Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter said he had issues with the way it was worded.
The results of that search have remained sealed.
At the time, Poindexter expressed surprise at why the federal government was involved.
"What is foreign to me is the federal government getting into a dogfighting case," Poindexter said. "I know it's been done, but what's driving this? Is it this boy's celebrity? Would they have done this if it wasn't Michael Vick?"
A day later, "They launched a separate, independent federal investigation," Poindexter said of the government, which has had a representative involved in the local probe all along.
A search warrant affidavit said some of the dogs were in individual kennels and about 30 were tethered with "heavy logging-type chains" buried in the ground. The chains allowed the dogs to get close to each other, but not to have contact, one of myriad findings on the property that suggested a dogfighting operation.
Vick initially said he had no idea the property might have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity. He also put the house up for sale and reportedly sold it quickly, although there is no record that the sale has closed. Vick has since declined to talk about the investigation.
ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.