FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - When William Frick was investigating one of the world's most notorious pit bull breeders in South Carolina in 2004, the former prosecutor for the South Carolina Attorney General's office stumbled upon a rumor involving a famous name.
"During the investigation we got some information that (Michael) Vick possibly had some dogs somewhere here in South Carolina," Frick says of his successful prosecution against convicted dogfighter David Ray Tant. "I had nothing to corroborate that and we didn't ever see anything more. I don't even know where that information came from quite frankly. And there was no way to follow up on it."
Tant is currently serving a 40-year sentence in a South Carolina state prison after being charged with 41 counts of dogfighting and one count of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, while Vick and three others were charged last week in federal court in Virginia with conspiracy to sponsor dogfighting. Tant's sentence is believed to be one of the heaviest ever involving dogfighting.
Frick says he found no connection between Tant and Vick during his extensive investigation. But when Virginia authorities began their probe into the Falcons quarterback and his possible involvement in illegal dogfighting, a state investigator traveled to South Carolina to interview at least one prisoner. South Carolina has an Anti-Dogfighting Task Force which has busted several dogfighters and the 18-page Vick indictment alleges that Vick and his associates traveled to South Carolina in 2003 to participate in a dogfight.
"I think it is a good chance that the source referenced in South Carolina is Tant," speculates John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society. "But it could be somebody else because (South Carolina Attorney General) Henry McMaster has thrown a lot of dogfighters in jail."
Frick also thinks authorities have talked to Tant but doubts he is among the four unidentified cooperating witnesses listed on the Vick indictment. "There are a lot of people (in South Carolina) involved in dogfighting," says Frick.
According to Frick and Goodwin, Tant's operation was discovered when a surveyor tripped a booby trap on his rural South Carolina property and was shot. At least 40 pit bulls were seized from the property.
Tant's lawyer denied that his client is a source in the Vick investigation.
"Categorically, he doesn't know Michael Vick; has never met Michael Vick," Charleston lawyer Dale Cobb told the Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.). "He has no information about Michael Vick."
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