Judge Sets April 2 for Michael Vick Dogfighting Trial

A judge on Tuesday scheduled an April 2 trial date for jailed Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on two state felony dogfighting charges.

One of Vick's lawyers, Lawrence Woodward, requested a jury trial during the 5-minute session before Judge Samuel Campbell.

The suspended NFL star did not attend the hearing in Surry County Circuit Court. Vick is being held at a Warsaw, Va., jail after surrendering on Nov. 19 to begin serving time for a federal dogfighting conspiracy conviction.

Vick faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 10 in the federal case.

The two state charges — beating or killing or causing dogs to fight other dogs, and engaging in or promoting dogfighting — also are punishable by up to five years in prison each.

As he left the courthouse, Vick attorney Billy Martin was asked why Vick is fighting the state charges after pleading guilty to the federal charge.

"I can't tell you we're fighting them, I can't tell you we're taking a plea deal," Martin said. "We're going to look at this matter and give him some legal advice and that has not been decided yet."

Vick's lawyers previously had indicated they will fight the state charges on the grounds he can't be convicted twice of the same crime.

The court also set trial dates of March 5 for co-defendants Quanis L. Phillips and Purnell A. Peace and a May 7 trial for Tony Taylor.

Vick and the three co-defendants pleaded guilty to the federal charge in U.S. District Court in Richmond. In an Aug. 27 plea agreement, Vick admitted bankrolling a dogfighting enterprise and providing gambling money, as well as helping to kill six to eight dogs.

Tuesday, 10 protesters from the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood outside the courthouse in rural southeastern Virginia. They held placards with pictures of injured dogs and the messages "Report Dogfighters!" and "Dogs Deserve Justice."

"The message must be clear," PETA protester Melissa Karpel said. "We want Michael Vick and all dogfighters to receive the longest term possible."

The dogfighting operation known as Bad Newz Kennels operated since 2001 on Vick's 15-acre spread in Surry County. A drug investigation of a Vick relative led authorities to the property, where they found more than 50 pit bulls and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.

Vick was suspended indefinitely by the NFL without pay, and he lost several lucrative endorsement deals. Also, an arbitrator has ruled Vick should repay the Falcons nearly $20 million in bonus money.