RICHMOND, Va. - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges related to illegal dogfighting.
Vick and three others are charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
The dogfighting operation was named 'Bad Newz Kennels,' according to the indictment, and the dogs were housed, trained and fought at a Surry County, Va., property owned by Vick.
The indictment alleges the 27-year-old Vick and his co-defendants began a grisly dogfighting operation in early 2001, the former Virginia Tech star's rookie year with the Falcons. The indictment states that dogs fought to the death - or close. Losing dogs were sometimes killed by electrocution, drowning, hanging or gunshots.
If convicted, Vick and the others - Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor - could face up to six years in prison, $350,000 in fines and restitution.
Telephone messages left at the offices and home of Vick's attorney, Larry Woodward, were not returned. A woman who answered the phone at the home of Vick's mother said 'no comment' and hung up.
'We are disappointed that Michael Vick has put himself in a position where a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him,' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
'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.'
John Goodwin of the Humane Society, who said early in the investigation that the animal rights group had long heard Vick's name in connection with dogfighting, said the manner in which losing or unwilling fighters were killed was especially troubling.
'Some of the grisly details in these filings shocked even me, and I'm a person who faces this stuff every day,' he said. 'I was surprised to see that they were killing dogs by hanging them and one dog was killed by slamming it to the ground. Those are extremely violent methods of execution - they're unnecessary and just sick.'
About eight young dogs were put to death at the Surry County home after they were found not ready to fight in April 2007, the indictment says. They were killed 'by hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog's body to the ground.'
The 18-page indictment also establishes a rough chronology of events it alleges occurred:
n In March 2003, after a pit bull from Bad Newz Kennels lost in a fight, it says Peace consulted with Vick about the losing dog's condition, then executed it by wetting it down with water and electrocuting it;
n In March 2003, after two Bad Newz Kennels dog lost fights to dogs owned by a cooperating witness, it alleges Vick retrieved a bag containing $23,000 and gave it to the owner of the winning dogs. One of the fights had a $20,000 purse;
n In the fall of 2003, a person witnessing a dog fight involving one of the dogs trained by Bad Newz Kennels incurred the ire of another cooperating witness by yelling out Vick's name in front of the crowd during the fight.
It also says after establishing Bad Newz Kennels in early 2002, Vick and the others obtained shirts and headbands promoting their affiliation the the kennel.
After a raid on the property in April, Vick said he was rarely at the house, had no idea it may have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity.