RICHMOND, Va. – A man who sold a female pit bull to Michael Vick's dogfighting operation and attended some of the fights avoided prison time Friday because he cooperated with investigators and did not physically harm any of the dogs.
Oscar Allen was sentenced to three years probation and fined $500 for his limited involvement in the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting ring that operated out of Vick's 15-acre spread in rural Surry County.
Vick, the suspended star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was sentenced in December to 23 months in federal prison. Three co-defendants also have been sentenced to prison terms.
"Your case is in a clearly different class than the other defendants who've appeared before me," U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson told the 67-year-old Allen. "But for your cooperation the case would not have developed as smoothly and completely as it did."
Allen, from the Williamsburg area, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to aid in illegal gambling and to sponsor a dog in animal fighting -- the same charge to which Vick and the other three men pleaded guilty.
Allen faced a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but federal prosecutors recommended that he spend no time in prison because he cooperated with investigators, had no prior criminal record and was a minor player in Vick's dogfighting enterprise.
"He came in and cooperated without any immunity or protection, knowing he would be charged," said prosecutor Michael Gill. He said information supplied by Allen was "a significant factor" in obtaining guilty pleas from Vick and the others.
Prosecutors said that while Allen helped conduct test fights to determine which dogs were good fighters, he was not involved in killing the six to eight that performed poorly.
"I see no evidence of any cruel acts toward animals in this case," Hudson said.
The judge told Allen that the light punishment did not mean he condoned Allen's behavior. "You clearly aided and abetted this conspiracy," he said.
Asked if he had anything to say, Allen told Hudson: "I would just like to apologize to the court for my actions and say I am very sorry."
Allen sold to Vick's operation a pit bull named Jane, one of dozens of dogs seized by authorities during a raid in April. Hudson appointed Rebecca J. Huss, professor at the Valparaiso University School of Law, guardian of the dogs.
Based on her recommendations, 47 dogs have been sent to eight animal rescue organizations throughout the country. Two previously were euthanized -- one for medical reasons, another because of behavioral issues.
Huss said in a telephone interview Friday that she hopes many of the 47 pit bulls eventually can be adopted by families. Some will require lifetime care by the rescue organizations.
"The individual organizations will be following their own guidelines," Huss said. "The dogs will have to show they are not a danger to public safety. We have to make sure they have the tools they need to be successful in society."
She said she has interacted with all the dogs.
"I don't want to minimize the damage that's been done because a lot of them have a long way to go," Huss said. "But what's amazing is how resilient they are. Most of them want to be with people, but some are still cautious."
She said Jane was not one of the two euthanized.
"She's a rambunctious dog," Huss said. "She entertains herself and, physically, she's in good shape. She's a dog that makes a good impression on you."
Allen was indicted separately from Vick and three co-defendants. Purnell Peace of Virginia Beach was sentenced to 18 months, Quanis Phillips of Atlanta to 21 months and Tony Taylor of Hampton, Va., to 2 months.
Those four men also face state animal cruelty charges in Surry County. Vick's trial is set for April 2.
Vick, who admitted bankrolling the dogfighting operation and helping execute dogs, entered a minimum-security prison in Leavenworth, Kan., this month.