RICHMOND, Va. – Two of Michael Vick's alleged cohorts in a dogfighting enterprise entered guilty pleas Friday, leaving the Atlanta Falcons quarterback on his own to cut a deal or face trial on federal charges.
With his NFL career in jeopardy and a superseding indictment adding more charges in the works, Vick and his lawyers have been talking with federal prosecutors about a possible plea agreement.
But there was no indication Friday at U.S. District Court that Vick would enter a plea before the new charges are filed, perhaps as early as next week.
Sentencing for the two was scheduled for Nov. 30. Vick has been barred from training camp by the NFL and is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 26.
Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta entered plea agreements and joined another defendant who previously changed his plea to guilty and agreed to cooperate in the government's case against Vick.
Peace and Phillips were charged with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiring to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture. Tony Taylor of Hampton pleaded guilty last month and will be sentenced Dec. 14.
The offenses are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although federal sentencing guidelines likely would call for less.
"Did you conspire with these folks to sponsor a dogfighting venture?" U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson asked Peace.
He replied, "Yes, sir."
While Peace was freed, Phillips violated the terms of his release by failing a drug test and was taken into custody of U.S. marshals.
Any outcome that ties Vick to betting on the dogfights could trigger a lifetime ban from the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy.
The 27-year-old quarterback was linked to betting by a statement signed by Taylor, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government, and the July 17 indictment.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell withheld further action while the NFL conducts its own investigation. Goodell said Thursday the league hasn't been monitoring Vick's plea negotiations.
The four defendants all initially pleaded not guilty, and Vick issued a statement saying he looked forward to clearing his name.
A statement of facts signed by Taylor as part of his plea agreement placed Vick at the scene of several dogfights and linked him to betting. Taylor said Vick financed virtually all the "Bad Newz Kennels" operation on Vick's property in Surry County.
The case began with a search in April that turned up dozens of pit bulls and an assortment of dogfighting paraphernalia at the property a few miles northwest of Vick's hometown of Newport News. According to the indictment, dogs that lost fights or fared poorly in test fights were sometimes executed by hanging, electrocution or other means.
At Friday's plea hearings, about 30 animal rights activists gathered outside the courtroom in downtown Richmond.
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