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Vick dogfighting co-defendant pleads guilty

  • Story Highlights
  • Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick tells radio station he hopes to return
  • Co-defendant Tony Taylor agrees to cooperate; could include testimony
  • Indictment: Vick, others ran ring that executed dogs that didn't fight well
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RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- A co-defendant in the federal dogfighting case against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick pleaded guilty Monday morning.

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Tony Taylor walks into the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, to enter his guilty plea.

Tony Taylor has also agreed to cooperate fully with the government. He will be sentenced on December 14 and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, fined $250,000 and put on three years supervised release, according to court documents filed Monday in Richmond.

Taylor, 34, of Hampton, Virginia, Vick and two other co-defendants -- Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, were charged on July 17 with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities, and conspiring to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

In entering the guilty plea, Taylor, who remains free on bond, waived all his rights, including his right to appeal. He told U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson that he understood he is now a convicted felon.

"You're pleading guilty and taking your chances, right?" Hudson asked Taylor. He responded, "Yes."

Taylor had the same answer when Hudson asked: "You have agreed to cooperate fully with the United States, is that right?"

It has been widely speculated that Taylor's plea, which had been expected, and his future cooperation with the prosecution could hurt Vick by helping the government prove its case against the high-profile football player.

Taylor said the government did not promise him any sentencing deal in exchange for his cooperation.

According to the summary of facts filed with the court on Monday, Taylor said that he and the other three co-defendants, including Vick, decided to start a dogfighting venture in early 2001 and that Vick paid for the property in Smithfield, Virginia, used for the operations.

The four launched the venture, Bad Newz Kennels, in early 2002, Taylor said.

In the court documents, Taylor says that he, Phillips and Peace "executed" dogs that did not "perform well in 'testing' " sessions, but does not mention Vick as having participated in the executions.

He does, however, say that Vick accompanied the other three co-defendants to dogfights in other states on at least four occasions, and that the quarterback sponsored dogs in fights at his property on several other occasions, all between 2002 and 2004.

Taylor said he left the dogfighting operation in September 2004 "following a disagreement with Phillips."

The trial for the three remaining defendants has been set for November 26.

A federal grand jury charged the men with organizing bloody and vicious dogfights on a piece of property that Vick bought in 2001. They also are accused of transporting and delivering dogs across state lines.

Taylor discovered the site that became the Bad Newz Kennels -- the staging area for housing and training the pit bulls and hosting dog fights, the indictment said.

On Friday, more than 50 supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had gathered outside the National Football League's headquarters in Manhattan demanding Vick's suspension.

PETA had sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vick's corporate sponsors and the Atlanta Falcons condemning dogfighting as ignorant and cruel. The letter did not directly presume Vick's guilt, nor did it directly ask the NFL to suspend Vick.

The letter was backed by civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, hip-hop mogul and vegan Russell Simmons, and the president of PETA.

In his first public comment since the indictment, Vick called his legal predicament "a crazy situation" and said he hopes to return soon to the gridiron, wearing a Falcons jersey.

But he acknowledged in a phone interview Monday with Atlanta radio station V-103, "There are a lot of things that needed to be worked out."

"I've been [in Atlanta] for the last seven years of my life. I would love to come back," Vick told radio personality Porsche Foxx. "But it remains to be seen."

The president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP criticized the prosecution of Vick at a news conference Monday morning.

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Dr. R.L. White Jr. accused the government of "piling on." "There's a penalty in football for piling on," White told reporters. "After a player has been tackled and somebody piles on, they're penalized for unnecessary roughness.

"Today, the NAACP blows the whistle and warns the powers that be that you are piling on." Video Watch White caution the public to keep an open mind » E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Michael Vick

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