Vick Indicted on Federal Charges

A federal grand jury handed down an indictment for four men on Tuesday, including Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, for their alleged involvement in a dog fighting operation based in Virginia. Vick has only been charged, but the NFL and the Falcons will have difficult decisions to make in the coming days.

Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was amongst four men indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury "for conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities ('Travel Act'), and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture, in violation of federal law," according to a US Department of Justice Press Release.

The 27-year old quarterback and the three other defendants named could face up to six years in prison and $350,000 in fines. And Vick could also lose his property in Smithfield, Virginia where the alleged dog fighting and training occurred.

The indictment claims the defendants were involved in a dog fighting business venture between 2001 through April of this year where "participants and dogs traveled from South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Texas, Alabama, and other states to participate" in dog fights where the winning side in each fight would win a purse worth hundreds to thousands of dollars and bets were placed on the side by spectators and participants. The indictment also alleges that the defendants took their dogs elsewhere in Virginia and also across state lines in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, to participate in dog fighting.

Vick is specifically named as allegedly playing a role in "testing" sessions in the summer of 2002 and in April of this year to determine if pit bulls in the inventory of "Bad Newz Kennels" were good fighters. The indictment claims that following both sessions, dogs that were deemed as not suitable were put to death in unusual and cruel ways.

The criminal indictments are just the first step of the legal process after a federal investigation and aren't proof of guilt, but the NFL was quick to issue a statement in response to the news:

"We are disappointed that Michael Vick has put himself in a position where a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him. We will continue to closely monitor developments in this case, and to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. The activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal. Michael Vick's guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts. The matter will be reviewed under the League's Personal Conduct Policy."

Vick, a registered dog breeder, has previously said that he wasn't aware that the property was being used for dog fighting and that he rarely went there.

While other players have been suspended by the league for a wide variety of infractions by local and state law enforcement officers, Vick's indictment is going to resonate louder and more harshly because it was handed down by a federal grand jury. And in a league where you can now be suspended for bringing dishonor to the league under the stricter personal conduct policy that commissioner Roger Goodell rolled out in April, it seems crystal clear that Michael Vick will be facing a stiff suspension by the NFL at the very least.

Should Vick be forced to sit out some games or the entire season, backup journeyman quarterback Joey Harrington would be slated to take over the starter's role in Atlanta. But the team may also look at other options, including former Vikings and Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who was released by the Dolphins on Tuesday as well.

Other veteran free agent quarterbacks that are still available include Drew Bledsoe, Jay Fiedler and Aaron Brooks.

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