This is bad news (or maybe I should say "bad newz") for Michael Vick.
On Monday, the remaining two co-defendants who were indicted with the NFL star in a federal dogfighting conspiracy case set hearings to accept plea deals.
The decisions by Purnell A. Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach and Quanis L. Phillips, 28, of Atlanta surprised Vick's legal team, said Collins Spencer III, a spokesman for the Newport News native.
A third co-defendant, Tony Taylor, 34, of Hampton, accepted a deal and pleaded guilty two weeks ago, but he does not appear as close to Vick as Peace and Phillips. A written admission that Taylor submitted with his guilty plea said he left the group that called themselves "Bad Newz Kennels" in 2004 following a disagreement with Phillips and others.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gill said at the men's July arraignment that prosecutors planned to present a new indictment by the end of August, which could bring more charges against Vick or name additional defendants.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
New allegations could surface when Peace and Phillips accept plea agreements. When Taylor pleaded guilty, prosecutors released a summary of facts that he agreed were true and that the U.S. government could prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Among the new details in Taylor's plea agreement was the assertion that Vick "almost exclusively funded" the dogfighting operation and supplied the money the men used to gamble on it.
From the government's perspective, cooperation from Phillips and Peace could fill in gaps in the government's time line following Taylor's departure, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
"It just becomes that much harder for Vick," he said.
Michael Vick's attorneys are engaged in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors and the Falcons quarterback could reach an agreement before new dogfighting charges are handed down next week, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
The negotiations follow news that two more of Vick's three co-defendants are scheduled to enter guilty pleas later this week as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Collins Spencer, a spokesman for Vick's lawyers, declined to comment Tuesday on any possible negotiations.
He added that Vick did not meet with his attorneys last night but said they will have a conference call with Vick this morning and may have an announcement this afternoon. Spencer did not indicate what the announcement would be.
On Monday Spencer said the legal team was "very surprised" by the pleas from Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips and said they would not affect plans to move forward toward a Nov. 26 trial.