Every year on this date we remember the dog fighting bust at Bad Newz Kennels on Moonlight Road. We celebrate the lives of the dogs who were saved, and we try not to think of the man who was at the bottom of the fighting operation: Michael Vick. I try hard not to think about this man at all. But then one of his fans says something stupid to me, and I lose it.
Michael Vick fans have three major arguments:
- Michael Vick had no idea what was going on at his property, and even if he did, he only bankrolled the operation.
- Michael Vick has served his time and we should just all shut up and go away.
- Anyone who isn’t willing to totally forgive the man is a racist and only hates him because he is black.
Unfortunately for his fans, none of the above is true.
When the dog-fighting bust occurred, it was quickly apparent that the State’s Attorney had absolutely no intention of pressing charges against these hometown boys. The only way anyone was going to trial is if the Feds stepped in. So in a highly unusual decision, they did. But because there is no federal cruelty statutes, the charges had to be for violations of the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) for racketeering related to the gambling offenses.
You can read the federal indictment against Vick here.
When the bust went down, Michael Vick, through his lawyer, released a statement proclaiming his innocence and stating that he looked forward to “clearing his good name”. That statement is the one his fans cling to.
However, once his co-defendants started making plea deals and pleading guilty, things started looking pretty dicey for Vick. His lawyers got hold of some of the plea agreements and statements of fact from others in the dog fighting bust: including this summary of facts from Quanis Phillips, and this plea agreement for Tony Taylor.
Michael Vick came to an agreement with the feds for a plea bargain. One of the stipulations of the agreement is that Mr. Vick would be totally honest about his involvement in every aspect of the operation, including the kennels, the matches, the gambling, and his involvement in killing under-performing dogs. Here is a copy of his summary of facts.
Unfortunately for Michael Vick, his summary of facts varied widely from those of his co-defendants. FBI agents felt that he was not being forthcoming. After more than 6 hours of intense questioning, they ordered Vick to undergo a polygraph examination, which he failed miserably. (The failed lie-detector test was mentioned as a reason the judge increased Vick’s jail time, above what prosecutors were asking for). Vick also tested positive for marijuana at the same time, another violation of his plea agreement.
After failing the test, Vick admitted to everything his co-defendants had stated. He was personally involved in the dog fighting operation for more than 6 years. He bankrolled purchase of the dogs, the gambling purses (some bouts had purses of up to $26K) and he personally killed dogs by hanging, drowning, electrocution, and on at least one occasion by slamming the dog into the ground repeatedly until he died. He admitted to throwing pet dogs to the fighting dogs and laughing as they were torn apart. He admitted to throwing his own children’s dog into the ring.
One of the witnesses at the sentencing hearing was an old time “dogman” who had been in dog-fighting for decades. He helped Vick set up the kennels. He taught Vick how to train and fight the dogs. But he eventually refused to work with the operation any further, and agreed to testify against Vick. Why? Because he said Vick “didn’t respect the dogs”. How low do you have to be when dog-fighters think you are scum?
Eventually the state brought one charge of dog-fighting against each of the defendants, which was plea bargained down to a fine. Vick didn’t spend a single day in jail for any of his actions against the dogs.
When he first got out of prison, Vick made a deal with the HSUS, and came out against dog-fighting in carefully orchestrated performances. He said he had seen the error of his ways. But when one of the Vicktory Dog adopters tried to talk to him about the dogs, he was told by Vick’s entourage that “we don’t care about the damn dogs”. Richard Hunter (Mel’s dad) got the entire interaction on video and posted it on YouTube.
As far as the racist argument goes, I don’t think there is a dog advocate in the world who would have responded any differently, no matter what color of the offender. The thought of dogs being killed in such horrific ways makes us shudder. Cruelty and torture is not a matter of race, but of morality.
Thanks to Melissa, Cherry’s mom, here is a link to the USDA Investigative Report.
I didn’t write this because I hate the man. Frankly, I try very hard not to even think about him. Our dog Ray didn’t spend one minute of the day thinking about the man who abused him. I want to strive to be in the moment as much as he was. The reason I wrote this was to have a record we can point to when his fans start in on us. This is the truth. There is documentation…. in your hero’s own words.