It's not likely that NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his codefendants will face local charges, one legal expert said.
"Yes, it's possible for the state to go ahead," said Anne Coughlin, law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, "but generally, one jurisdiction will take the lead, and if it's successful, the other one will be satisfied and won't proceed with additional charges."
Vick and three other men were charged in federal court with conspiracy and accused of being part of a dogfighting operation run out of a house that the Newport News native owns in Surry County.
One co-defendant, Tony Taylor, 34, of Hampton has pleaded guilty. Two others - Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta and Purnell Peace, 35, of Virginia Beach - have plea hearings scheduled for Friday morning.
The charge stems from an April search of Vick's property, where investigators found 66 dogs, mostly pit bulls, and dogfighting equipment. So far, no one has been charged in Surry.
And that's typical because federal investigators took the lead in the case, law professors said.
"They're waiting to see what happens. That's exactly what you'd want to do," Coughlin said. "If federal prosecutors have taken the lead on a case the state would have an interest in, the state prosecutor is just going to hang out on the sidelines and see what happens. If they're satisfied with the result, they'll probably say, 'That's fine.' If they view the federal prosecution as being incomplete or bungled, they may come in here and say, 'Hey, we're going to follow up with our own charges.' "
Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter has said grand jury indictments could come in September. Neither he nor Surry County Sheriff H.D. Brown could be reached Wednesday for comment.
"I think the state prosecutor is going to have to say something more in the next couple weeks as to whether he'll proceed or not," said Linda Malone, law professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. "If he's not, he's going to have to give his reasons why. This is such a high-profile case, and there's been so much public pressure. He may really feel he has to do something."
"It's a very emotional type of offense where people are outraged. There are protest groups and others who want to see this pursued as much as it can be pursued. It's not a cut-and-dried-type of determination."
If the federal case ends with satisfactory plea agreements, further prosecution might not be sought, Malone said.
"He will feel like it's not worth the state paying the expense of prosecuting if there's a general perception among the prosecutors and the public that adequate punishment has been imposed," she said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported late Wednesday that Vick was considering a plea deal in the federal case that could be announced this week.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said he also expected the local case to remain on hold for now.
"I think they were working together, and then the feds came in," Tobias said. "At this point, it may be better for everybody if they wait. He (Poindexter) just doesn't have the resources. He never has. It's not just Poindexter. It's every commonwealth's attorney around the state."
Coughlin agreed. "There are too many crimes to go around. We cannot prosecute them all," she said. "I think it would be prudent for the local authorities to step back and say, 'You know, we don't need to spend our money. The taxpayers are already stretched.' "
There are times, though, when different jurisdictions will decide to bring charges against the same defendant. The men behind the 2002 Beltway sniper case were prosecuted in Virginia and Maryland, Coughlin said.
"It's typically an unusual case," she said.
"The idea is that it's overkill. We've proved them guilty. We've gained a conviction. To take another bite at the apple is extravagant unless there's some extreme interest involved that's not being vindicated."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times