SUSSEX, Va. – Michael Vick and three co-defendants were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on state charges related to a dogfighting ring operated on Vick's Virginia property.
Vick, who already pleaded guilty in federal court to a dogfighting conspiracy charge and is awaiting sentencing on Dec. 10, was indicted for beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs and engaging in or promoting dogfighting.
The grand jury passed on indicting the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and two co-defendants on eight counts of animal cruelty, which would have exposed them to as many as 40 years in prison if convicted.
Any animal cruelty charge in Virginia is punishable by up to five years in prison. And in a written plea for the federal case, Vick admitted helping kill six to eight dogs at the Surry County property.
Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter asked that the four be arraigned Oct. 3 and requested that each be released on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond. None of the defendants nor their lawyers were in court.
The charges are the first leveled against Vick in the county where he built a home on 15 acres that was the base of the dogfighting operation.
The grand jury met for more than three hours Tuesday.
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said the team had no comments on the new charges.
The case began in late April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided the former Virginia Tech star's property and seized dozens of dogs, most of them pit bulls, and equipment commonly associated with dogfighting.
Six weeks later, with the local investigation perceived to be dragging and a search warrant allowed to expire, federal agents arrived with their own search warrants and started digging up dog carcasses buried days before the first raid.
Poindexter, widely criticized for the pace of the investigation, reacted angrily when the feds moved in, suggesting that Vick's celebrity was a draw, or that their pursuit of the case could have racial overtones. He later eased off those comments, saying the sides would simply be pursuing parallel investigations.
Vick, who faces up to five years in federal prison, has been indefinitely suspended without pay by the NFL and been dropped by all his major sponsors, including Nike.