Co-Defendant: Vick Bankrolled Ring
RICHMOND, Va. - One of Michael Vick's co-defendants pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a dogfighting conspiracy he says was financed almost entirely by the Atlanta Falcons quarterback. As part of a plea agreement, Tony Taylor pledged to fully cooperate with the government in its prosecution of Vick and two other men accused of running an interstate dogfighting enterprise known as 'Bad Newz Kennels' on Vick's property in rural Surry County. 'The Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were almost exclusively funded by Vick,' a summary of facts supporting the plea agreement and signed by Taylor states. The plea deal requires Taylor to testify against Vick and his two remaining co-defendants if called upon to do so. Taylor cannot get a stiffer sentence or face any new charges based on any new information he provides, according to terms of the agreement.Additional charges are possible, however, against Vick and the other two. Federal prosecutors have said a superseding indictment will be issued in August. Vick's lead attorney, Billy Martin, did not immediately return a phone message. Taylor, 34, of Hampton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities, and conspiring to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. Vick pleaded not guilty to the same charges last week and said in a written statement that he looked forward to 'clearing my good name.' He also pleaded with the public to resist a rush to judgment. The gruesome details outlined in the July 17 indictment have fueled public protests against Vick and prompted the suspension of some of his lucrative endorsement deals. Also, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has barred Vick from the Falcons' training camp. The summary of facts signed by Taylor supports the indictment's claims that the dogfighting ring executed underperforming dogs by drowning, hanging and other brutal means. Taylor admitted shooting one dog and electrocuting another when they did not perform well in test fights in the summer of 2002. Vick, 27, attended several dogfights in Virginia and other states with his partners, according to the statement. Prosecutors claim the fights offered purses as high as $26,000. Taylor, who will be sentenced Dec. 14, said he was not promised any specific sentence in return for his cooperation with the government. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines likely will call for less. The range will be determined by the court's probation office, but the judge can depart from that range if he finds aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Taylor and his attorney, Stephen A. Hudgins of Newport News, declined to answer reporters' questions as they left the federal courthouse. Prosecutors also would not comment. •NAACP leaders urged public restraint Monday in judging Michael Vick before he has his day in court. R.L. White, president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the quarterback has been vilified by animal rights groups, talk radio and the news media and prematurely punished by his team and corporate sponsors. 'If Mr. Vick is guilty, he should pay for his crime, but to treat him as he is being treated now is also a crime,' White said at a news conference. 'Be restrained in your premature judgment until the legal process is completed.' Beason's Agent: Panthers Bargaining In Bad Faith SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Carolina Panthers are taking a stand against a new kind of NFL contract, and their protest could lead to a lengthy holdout for first-round pick Jon Beason. Following a court ruling earlier this year that made it risky for teams to offer so-called second-year 'option bonuses,' the Panthers are refusing to offer one to Beason, said his agent, Michael Huyghue. He called it the main stumbling block between the club and Beason, who entered the third day of his holdout Monday. Huyghue told The Associated Press the Panthers initially offered a contract with the option bonus, only to yank it off the table 24 hours later. He claims the team is negotiating in bad faith, since most of the other first-round picks who have signed received deals that include an option bonus. General manager Marty Hurney, who said Friday the two sides were 'miles apart,' declined Monday to answer questions about the impasse. 'We have said all along that we don't comment publicly on player negotiations,' Hurney said. 'This puts out just one version of the story.' Beason's holdout has left the Panthers thin at linebacker. 'I don't want the negative media attention. I don't want to be the focal point,' Beason, the 25th pick in the draft, told the AP in his first interview since starting his holdout. 'Already having the pressure of being the first-round pick, not having the luxury of being out there, it's hurting myself.' Beason - a linebacker from Miami - continues to work out on his own in Jacksonville. BENGALS: Tight end Sean Mulcahy hurt his neck during practice Monday and was taken off the field in an ambulance as a precaution. A team spokesman said Mulcahy had full movement in his arms and legs and was joking with medical personnel at the Kentucky Trauma Center. BROWNS: Rookie quarterback Brady Quinn missed his fourth day of training camp Monday in a contract holdout that shows no signs of ending anytime soon for the first-round draft pick. COLTS: Placed former Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders and linebacker Keith O'Neil, a key special teams performer, on the physically unable to perform list. Neither was expected to practice at the start of training camp after having offseason medical procedures. Sanders had shoulder surgery, while O'Neil underwent sports hernia surgery. 49ERS: Signed top draft pick Patrick Willis (linebacker, Mississippi) to a five-year deal late Sunday. The deal has a maximum value of $16.7 million with $12 million in guaranteed money. LIONS: Rookie quarterback Drew Stanton (Michigan State) will have arthroscopic surgery to clean cartilage from his right knee, and could be out as long as a month. PATRIOTS: Defensive back Chad Scott will miss the upcoming season because of a knee injury, the team announced. REDSKINS: Agreed to terms with No. 6 overall draft pick LaRon Landry (safety, LSU) on a five-year deal worth about $41.5 million. SEAHAWKS: Safety Jordan Babineaux will miss the next three to four weeks of training camp after injuring his right knee on the first day of practice. STEELERS: Claimed linebacker Marquis Cooper, a former Buccaneer, on waivers from Seattle and released rookie wide receiver Chris Jackson and first-year safety Harrison Smith.