Tony Taylor pleads guilty, will cooperate with Feds
By JEREMY REDMON
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/30/07
Richmond, Va. â€“ One of Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's co-defendants in the federal dog fighting case reversed himself and pleaded guilty today as part of a deal with prosecutors, a troubling sign for Vick's legal defense.
Tony Taylor, who along with Vick pleaded not guilty to the charges just four days ago, agreed this morning to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their case against Vick and two other co-defendants, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.
"It is not good news for Vick," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who specializes in Constitutional law and the federal courts. "(Taylor) has all these incentives to cooperate fully with the government in order to reduce his possible exposure to a sentence and a fine."
Judge Henry E. Hudson set Taylor's sentencing date for Dec. 14. Vick, Peace and Phillips' trial date is still set for Nov. 26 before Hudson. Prosecutors could recommend a lighter sentence for Taylor depending on how cooperative he is, legal experts said, and that is why the court set Taylor's sentencing for a date after the trial.
"You have to give up everything" as part of a plea deal, said David P. Baugh, a former federal prosecutor and now a criminal defense attorney who has represented clients before Hudson. "There are no non-snitching plea agreements. He probably has already been debriefed."
Taylor, 34, of Hampton, Va., said little in court during his 15-minute long hearing this morning. He and his attorney, Stephen A. Hudgins, declined to comment as they left the courthouse. A spokesman for Vick also declined to comment.
A federal grand jury indicted Taylor, Vick and the two others on a single count of conspiring to violate three laws: the interstate travel act by crossing state lines to engage in illegal gambling; sponsoring a dog in an animal fighting venture; and buying, transporting and receiving dogs for animal fighting.
Taylor pleaded guilty this morning to conspiring to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. Taylor confirmed during the hearing this morning that he pleaded guilty without a promise of a lighter sentence. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
The 18-page indictment says Taylor, Vick and the others set up a business called "Bad Newz Kennels" in rural Surry County, Va. to raise and train pit bulls for dogfights. The men gambled on the fights in Virginia and several other states, the indictment says.
Federal prosecutors revealed additional details about their case in a 13-page statement of facts they filed with Taylor's plea agreement today. The statement says Vick almost exclusively funded the dog-fighting operation and gambling monies. It also says the proceeds from their gambling wins were split by Taylor, Phillips and Peace.
Taylor used a large portion of his money for living expenses, the statement says, because he devoted his time to caring for and training the pit bulls. The gambling wins also were funneled back into the dog fighting operation, to pay for food, medicine and supplies, according federal prosecutors. Taylor left the business after a disagreement with Phillips and others in September of 2004, according to the statement of facts.
At Vick and Taylor's arraignment Thursday, federal prosecutors announced they would be seeking a "superceding" indictment before the end of August, meaning they could identify additional charges or defendants in the case. Coincidentally or not, Taylor's plea hearing showed up on Hudson's schedule the following day.
"There certainly looks like there might be some linkage," Tobias said. "He may have been afraid of what might be in that superceding indictment."
Taylor played a key role in the operation in May of 2001, federal prosecutors say, by identifying the Surry County property as a suitable location for housing and training the dogs. Vick bought the property the following month. In June of 2002, Taylor signed the articles of incorporation for a business based at that property called MV7 LLC, Vick's initials and jersey number.
After they set up their business, the four men boldly used shirts and headbands to represent and promote their dog fighting operation, the indictment says.
At various times, the men executed dogs they didn't think would fight well by gruesome means, including hanging and drowning, according to federal prosecutors. In 2002, for example, Taylor executed at least two dogs by shooting one and electrocuting the other, the indictment says.
Vick figures prominently in the indictment. It says the ex-Virginia Tech football star, who now has a $130 million contract with the Falcons, sponsored dogs in fights with purses as low as $3,000, according to the indictment.
Authorities said they found numerous dog fighting-related items on his property in Surry County, including sheds and kennels, treadmills used to condition dogs and a "break" stick used to pry open a dog's mouth during fights. They also found 54 pit bulls on Vick's property, some of which had scars and other injuries they said were consistent with dogfights.
Vick received more bad news over the last several days. Last week, Nike suspended Vick's endorsement contract without pay and Reebok halted sales of jerseys bearing his name.
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey