RICHMOND, Va. -- If federal prosecutors had their way, the
man who gave them most of the gruesome details about Michael Vick's
dogfighting enterprise wouldn't go to prison for killing dogs and
helping create "Bad Newz Kennels."
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson disagreed, saying it
wouldn't be right to let Tony Taylor walk after sentencing Vick to
23 months in prison and two other co-defendants to 18 and 21
"You were as much an abuser of animals as any other defendant
in this case," Hudson told Taylor on Friday before sentencing him
to two months in prison.
Prosecutor Michael Gill had recommended Taylor only serve
Hudson agreed Taylor deserved a break. However, he said the
"gross disparity" suggested by Gill was inappropriate for a
person who helped develop and run the dogfighting operation and
admitted killing two dogs, one by gunshot and one by electrocution.
"I realize those were inhumane and stupid decisions I did
make," Taylor told the judge during his 10-minute sentencing
Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a range of zero to six
months for Taylor, who was given credit for accepting
responsibility for his crime.
Prosecutor Michael Gill said it would have taken much longer for
the government to build a case against Vick and the others had it
not been for Taylor's cooperation.
"He was the most significant source of information in this
case," Gill told Hudson. "He did not hesitate in any way."
Animal rights activists had no quarrel with Taylor's light
"There are those who may feel this is the proverbial slap on
the wrist, but it reflects the significant role Tony Taylor played
in making a lot of information available that led to the other
guilty pleas," said Randall Lockwood, senior vice president for
animal cruelty initiatives for the Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United
"Taylor's role in bringing down Bad Newz Kennels was
invaluable," he said.
According to court papers, Taylor in 2001 found the 15-acre
tract that Vick bought for about $34,000 to develop into a
dogfighting compound. Taylor oversaw and trained pit bulls at the
Surry County site for three years before quitting because of a
falling out with co-defendant Quanis Phillips and others.
"He left behind everybody involved with that and did not get
back involved in that activity," Hudgins told Hudson.
Hudgins said Taylor was immediately cooperative when contacted
by investigators who discovered dogfighting equipment and dozens of
pit bulls at the Surry County site. Taylor never once asked "How
can I get out of this?" Hudgins said.
Taylor, of Hampton, was the first of the four men to plead
guilty and agree to cooperate. Phillips, of Atlanta, and Purnell
Peace of Virginia Beach soon followed, then Vick.
Taylor, whose prison term begins Jan. 22, also will serve three
years' probation. Like his co-defendants, he cannot own dogs during
The case began in April when a drug investigation of Vick's
cousin led authorities to the Surry County property. Details
outlined in court papers, including the executions of dogs that did
not perform well in test fights, prompted a public backlash against
Animal rights activists say the case has shed light on a brutal
underground blood sport.
"It has awakened in the general public, as well as law
enforcement, to the need to be alert to signs of dogfighting --
report it, investigate it, prosecute it and follow up with
appropriate sentences," Lockwood said.
Pacelle said dogfighting prosecutions have increased since the
Vick case began, and the Humane Society expects about 25 states to
consider legislation strengthening dogfighting laws in 2008.
"We hope we're farther down the road now than ever before in
eradicating this activity in the United States," Pacelle said.