Why Vick Won’t Go To Prison For Dog Fighting

Pit Bull Puppy

The answer: Prosecutors aren’t charging Vick with dog fighting. Instead he may do time for conspiracy. The reason, according to an animal law website AnimalBlawg, is that prosecutors are using a tool designed to give them every advantage.

Despite some reports of Vick present at dog fights, (and multiple witnesses mentioned in the indictment) the conspiracy charge may be easier to prove.

There are three things the prosecutor must prove: (1) two or more people (2) agreed to try to commit a crime and (3) one of those people did some “overt act” in furtherance of the conspiracy. Conspiracy to commit a felony is punishable by five years in prison, even if the underlying felony never occurred (or cannot be proven)!

In other words, if a group of people decided to stage dog fights (which are felonies in Virginia) and one of them bred or trained a dog for that purpose, all of them are guilty since they participated in a conspiracy to break the law. From my armchair lawyer’s perspective, the challenge is in part 2, proving that Vick “agreed to try to commit a crime.”

And if you think this just applies to dog fighting, buying a cockfighting magazine from Amazon could land you in jail. Why? If you and a friend are thinking of starting a cockfight (felony in most states) and one of you buys a cockfighting magazine to learn how, both of you just committed a conspiracy to commit a felony.

Here are the specific laws that Vick and his conspirators are charged with and the crimes they allegedly conspired to commit.

Source and legal references thanks to AnimalBlawg

Vick is charged with:

18 USC § 371. Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense
against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any
agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of
such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy,
each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
five years, or both.
If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object
of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such
conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for
such misdemeanor.

Crime Vick allegedly conspired to commit:

18 USC § 1952. Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises

(a) Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the
mail or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent
to -
(1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or
(2) commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful
activity; or
(3) otherwise promote, manage, establish, carry on, or
facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying
on, of any unlawful activity,

and thereafter performs or attempts to perform -
(A) an act described in paragraph (1) or (3) shall be fined
under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both; or
(B) an act described in paragraph (2) shall be fined under this
title, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both, and if
death results shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for

(b) As used in this section (i) “unlawful activity” means (1) any
business enterprise involving gambling, liquor on which the Federal
excise tax has not been paid, narcotics or controlled substances
(as defined in section 102(6) of the Controlled Substances Act), or
prostitution offenses in violation of the laws of the State in
which they are committed or of the United States, (2) extortion,
bribery, or arson in violation of the laws of the State in which
committed or of the United States, or (3) any act which is
indictable under subchapter II of chapter 53 of title 31, United
States Code, or under section 1956 or 1957 of this title and (ii)
the term “State” includes a State of the United States, the
District of Columbia, and any commonwealth, territory, or
possession of the United States.
(c) Investigations of violations under this section involving
liquor shall be conducted under the supervision of the Attorney

Crime Vick allegedly conspired to commit:
7 USC § 2156. Animal fighting venture prohibition

(a) Sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting
(1) In general
Except as provided in paragraph (2), it shall be unlawful for
any person to knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal
fighting venture, if any animal in the venture was moved in
interstate or foreign commerce.
(2) Special rule for certain states
With respect to fighting ventures involving live birds in a
State where it would not be in violation of the law, it shall be
unlawful under this subsection for a person to sponsor or exhibit
a bird in the fighting venture only if the person knew that any
bird in the fighting venture was knowingly bought, sold,
delivered, transported, or received in interstate or foreign
commerce for the purpose of participation in the fighting
(b) Buying, selling, delivering, or transporting animals for
participation in animal fighting venture
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, buy,
transport, deliver, or receive for purposes of transportation, in
interstate or foreign commerce, any dog or other animal for
purposes of having the dog or other animal participate in an animal
fighting venture.
(c) Use of Postal Service or other interstate instrumentality for
promoting or furthering animal fighting venture
It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly use the mail
service of the United States Postal Service or any interstate
instrumentality for purposes of promoting or in any other manner
furthering an animal fighting venture except as performed outside
the limits of the States of the United States.
(d) Violation of State law
Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (c) of this section,
the activities prohibited by such subsections shall be unlawful
with respect to fighting ventures involving live birds only if the
fight is to take place in a State where it would be in violation of
the laws thereof.
(e) Penalties
Any person who violates subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this
section shall be fined not more than $15,000 or imprisoned for not
more than 1 year, or both, for each such violation.
(f) Investigation of violations by Secretary; assistance by other
Federal agencies; issuance of search warrant; forfeiture; costs
recoverable in forfeiture or civil action
The Secretary or any other person authorized by him shall make
such investigations as the Secretary deems necessary to determine
whether any person has violated or is violating any provision of
this section, and the Secretary may obtain the assistance of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of the Treasury, or
other law enforcement agencies of the United States, and State and
local governmental agencies, in the conduct of such investigations,
under cooperative agreements with such agencies. A warrant to
search for and seize any animal which there is probable cause to
believe was involved in any violation of this section may be issued
by any judge of the United States or of a State court of record or
by a United States magistrate judge within the district wherein the
animal sought is located. Any United States marshal or any person
authorized under this section to conduct investigations may apply
for and execute any such warrant, and any animal seized under such
a warrant shall be held by the United States marshal or other
authorized person pending disposition thereof by the court in
accordance with this subsection. Necessary care including
veterinary treatment shall be provided while the animals are so
held in custody. Any animal involved in any violation of this
section shall be liable to be proceeded against and forfeited to
the United States at any time on complaint filed in any United
States district court or other court of the United States for any
jurisdiction in which the animal is found and upon a judgment of
forfeiture shall be disposed of by sale for lawful purposes or by
other humane means, as the court may direct. Costs incurred by the
United States for care of animals seized and forfeited under this
section shall be recoverable from the owner of the animals if he
appears in such forfeiture proceeding or in a separate civil action
brought in the jurisdiction in which the owner is found, resides,
or transacts business.
(g) Definitions
For purposes of this section -
(1) the term “animal fighting venture” means any event which
involves a fight between at least two animals and is conducted
for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment except that the
term “animal fighting venture” shall not be deemed to include any
activity the primary purpose of which involves the use of one or
more animals in hunting another animal or animals, such as
waterfowl, bird, raccoon, or fox hunting;
(2) the term “interstate or foreign commerce” means -
(A) any movement between any place in a State to any place in
another State or between places in the same State through
another State; or
(B) any movement from a foreign country into any State or
from any State into any foreign country;

(3) the term “interstate instrumentality” means telegraph,
telephone, radio, or television operating in interstate or
foreign commerce;
(4) the term “State” means any State of the United States, the
District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any
territory or possession of the United States;
(5) the term “animal” means any live bird, or any live dog or
other mammal, except man; and
(6) the conduct by any person of any activity prohibited by
this section shall not render such person subject to the other
sections of this chapter as a dealer, exhibitor, or otherwise.
(h) Conflict with State law
The provisions of this chapter shall not supersede or otherwise
invalidate any such State, local, or municipal legislation or
ordinance relating to animal fighting ventures except in case of a
direct and irreconcilable conflict between any requirements
thereunder and this chapter or any rule, regulation, or standard

Crime Vick allegedly conspired to commit (Virginia state law):

VA Code Ann. § 3.1-796.124. Dogfighting; penalty
A. No person shall knowingly do any of the following:
1. Promote, engage in, or be employed in the fighting of dogs for amusement, sport or gain;
2. Wager money or anything of value on the result of such fighting;
3. Receive money or anything of value for the admission of another person to a place for dogfighting;
4. Possess, own, train, transport, or sell any dog with the intent that such dog engage in an exhibition of fighting with another dog; or
5. Permit any act described in subdivisions 1 through 4 of this subsection on any premises under his charge or control, or aid or abet any such act.
B. Any animal control officer, as defined in § 3.1-796.66, shall confiscate any dogs that have been, are, or are intended to be used in dogfighting and any equipment used in training such dogs or used in dogfighting.
C. Any person convicted of violating this section may be prohibited by the court from possession or ownership of other companion animals.
D. Any person who violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.
E. In addition to any other fines and costs, any person who is convicted of a violation of this section shall pay all reasonable costs incurred in housing or euthanizing any confiscated dogs.

Crime Vick allegedly conspired to commit (Virginia state law):

VA Code Ann. § 18.2-326. Penalty for illegal gambling.

Except as otherwise provided in this article, any person who illegally gambles or engages in interstate gambling as defined in § 18.2-325 shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. If an association or pool of persons illegally gamble, each person therein shall be guilty of illegal gambling.

Crime Vick allegedly conspired to commit (Virginia state law):

VA Code Ann. § 18.2-328. Conducting illegal gambling operation; penalties.

The operator of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, any such operator who engages in an illegal gambling operation which (i) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or (ii) has gross revenue of $2,000 or more in any single day shall be fined not more than $20,000 and imprisoned not less than one year nor more than ten years.

As used in this section, the term “gross revenue” means the total amount of illegal gambling transactions handled, dealt with, received by or placed with such operation, as distinguished from any net figure or amount from which deductions are taken, without regard to whether money or any other thing of value actually changes hands.

15 Responses to “Why Vick Won’t Go To Prison For Dog Fighting”

  1. Katie says:

    Itchmo, thanks for explaining. Personally, I would like to see him charged and do jail time. If he’s not; I believe it sends the wrong message to the public re: dog fighting. I was also unhappy hearing various newscasters this AM, acting like dogs fighting - no big deal. Or perhaps, they have prejudice to the breed mentioned. But, I got the feeling they really didn’t care much and thought the story was taking up to much air time.


  2. kristy says:

    I hope that prick rots in jail. I have two pit mixes that were stray puppies that adopted me 4 years ago. I didn’t try to find homes for them precisely because of low-lifes like this one that might have tried to use those babies as bait dogs. They are the sweetest dogs in the world.

  3. KELLY says:


  4. kae family says:

    Is the embedded picture features one of the pups? That adorable face is certainly heart-breaking.

    As previously mentioned by many, ban him from ever playing professional sports again. AND deduct his wage from whatever job he holds. Donate that money to all of the dogs’ shelters in VA.

  5. Chuck says:

    Here’s where you can email the Falcons:

  6. Lynne says:

    Chuck, thanks for that link. I did.

  7. G in INdiana says:

    Actually Vick may get a major sentence once he steps on the field. I know if I were a defensive linesman and loved my dogs, Vick would be toast if I ever got a hold of him.
    The NFL better not send him to England for any exhibition games either, they’ll rip him to shreds.

  8. Lynne says:

    This is what I sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell:

    You have already set a precedent with the suspensions of Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, and Tank Johnson. Why is Michael Vick any different? Do you not understand the visceral reaction people have to the issue of dog fighting?

    I have long believed that sports promotes brutality. This confirms it. It also confirms for me the value you place on money over all else. This is why the U.S. is no longer a great nation.

    I’m reminded of a line from the movie Class Action, when Gene Hackman’s character confronts someone with such values. He says, “You hang on to your money. Hang on to it real tight because without a soul, that’s all you’ll ever have.”

    Do the right thing. Send a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. Suspend Michael Vick.


    I will not let up on this.

  9. dm says:

    Although harsh, I could watch Michael Vick’s execution and not think twice about it. Murder for murder… Murder of innocents.

  10. dm says:

    Although some might think this harsh, I could watch Michael Vick’s execution and not think twice about it. Murder for murder… He MURDERED innocents.

  11. Lis says:

    Um, folks? Itchmo didn’t say Vick won’t go to jail. He said Vick won’t go to jail for dogfighting. Conspiracy to commit a felony is a felony; Vick could do some serious jail time.

    Plus, the dogfighting charges could still be coming.

  12. janet says:

    unfortunately, I remember O J getting off after murdering two people. If you’re a sports hero, it seems the law doesn’t apply to you. I sure hope I’m wrong and that Vick rots in jail like he deserves.

  13. Avram says:

    I hate to say it, but I think you’re right. Vick will probably get off with a slap on the wrist if that. Maybe he’ll get community service, maybe a big fine, and at the very most, a month in prison during the offseason.

    I’m disgusted and so, I believe, are most people. At my day job, we put up a neat interactive poll and 90% so far have voted against Vick:


  14. Lis says:

    OJ got off because the prosecution didn’t do its job, plain and simple. The prosecution in the criminal case didn’t take the steps necessary to compensate for the fact that one of the investigating officers was a vocal racist, and they were not diligent enough to find evidence that should have been available to them and which plaintiffs’ attorneys in the civil case were able to obtain. The prosecution simply did not, in the end, present a case that the jury could convict on. Yeah, OJ was rich and had a Dream Team defense, but he had a Dream Team defense in the civil case, too, and still lost–because plaintiffs’ attorneys did their job properly.

    This is a federal prosection, not state, and so far they’re not looking careless or clumsy.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Vick did’t kill a human. Stop putting dogs before people.

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