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Vick co-defendants receive prison sentences

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  • NEW: Vick co-defendants sentenced to 18 months, 21 months in prison
  • Legal expert says sentences, judge's remarks don't bode well for Vick
  • Sentences were within range recommended by federal guidelines
  • Vick, who surrendered early, is to be sentenced on December 10
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RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- The judge who will decide how long Michael Vick stays in prison sentenced two of the fallen NFL star's dogfighting partners to prison on Friday.

Purnell Peace, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Quanis Phillips, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to 21 months.

"You may have thought this was sporting, but it was very callous and cruel," U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson told Phillips.

Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a year to 18 months. Vick faces the same potential prison time.

B.J. Bernstein, a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, said the co-defendants' prison sentence, as well as the judge's remarks, don't bode well for Vick. "It means it's not going to easy for Vick," she told CNN.

She noted that although prosecutors recommended sentences at the lower end of the federal guidelines to reward Phillips and Peace for cooperating, the judge sentenced them at the higher range.

"If he did that for someone who cooperated, it cannot be good for Vick," Bernstein said. She added that Vick's early surrender and agreement to pay more than $928,000 to care for dogs seized from his property might not help him much.

In fact, Bernstein added, Vick could receive a harsher sentence because he did not cooperate and bank-rolled the dogfighting operation. Bernstein is not involved in the case.

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Vick is to be sentenced on December 10. Tony Taylor of Hampton, Virginia, who was the first to plead guilty, will be sentenced on December 14.

Peace, Phillips and Taylor pleaded guilty last summer and agreed to testify against Vick, prompting the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback to enter his own plea agreement a few days later.

Sentencing guidelines called for punishments of 12 to 18 months for Peace and 18 to 24 months for Phillips, who has a more extensive criminal record. Video Watch an attorney describe his client's remorse »

Prosecutors recommended sentences at the low end of the range because of the co-defendants' cooperation. But Hudson said he felt sentences on the high end of the range were appropriate because of the nature of the crime.

Hudson told Peace that he was concerned because a pre-sentencing report quoted Peace as saying he saw he nothing wrong with dogfighting.

According to court papers, Vick financed virtually the entire "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting enterprise at his 15-acre property in Surry County in rural southeastern Virginia and participated in executing several underperforming dogs by drowning, hanging and other means.

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Vick publicly apologized for his role in the dogfighting operation and unexpectedly turned himself in Nov. 19 to begin serving his prison term early. He is being held in a state jail in Warsaw, Virginia.

All four men also face state charges. Vick's attorneys this week requested a jury trial, which is set to begin in April. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Eric Fiegel contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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