Yesterday, after five months, Virginia Commonwealth Prosecutor Gerald Poindexter brought state charges against Michael Vick for illegal dogfighting activities, and a grand jury returned two indictments for violating the state’s dogfighting law—with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Essentially, Poindexter piggy-backed on the federal defendants’ guilty pleas, and the preceding casework done by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the investigators at the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General.
We are pleased that Poindexter brought the charges, but it is the federal government that should get the credit for its resolve and legal acumen in the matter of Vick’s criminal behavior. Poindexter was equivocal for months, and it was the federal government that brought federal charges against Vick and his co-conspirators, amassed an abundance of compelling evidence, and convinced the defendants to plead guilty.
That said, the additional state charges do underscore Vick’s egregious conduct and offer the prospect of more severe punishment for him.
Sadly, there are many people who still just don’t get it. My colleague John Goodwin, who manages our anti-dogfighting efforts, appeared at a town hall-style meeting in Atlanta organized and broadcast live by ESPN last night. NAACP Atlanta Chapter President Dr. R.L. White again stated his view that the public criticism and prosecution of Vick has been overzealous. Hundreds of people in the crowd agreed with him, and were critical of our call that justice be served.
I am quite sure that Vick’s apologists do not represent the majority view within the African American community. And they do not represent the larger public take on the issue. Most people—whether black or white, rural or urban, male or female—are appalled by Vick’s abhorrent conduct and cruelty.
But we must never forget that there are still far too many people who disregard the interests of animals and the importance of animal protection. For these people, it is valuable for them to see action by state and federal prosecutors and by the Falcons and the NFL. Animal cruelty laws have been violated, dogs have been tormented and tortured, and there can be no business as usual.