The lead investigator in the case of dog-fighting accusations against Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick said Monday that she believes there is substantial evidence to eventually tie Vick directly to the felony crime.
That evidence could eventually include videotapes of Vick at matches. Kathy Strouse, the Animal Control coordinator for the City of Chesapeake in Virginia, said Monday that she has received a tip from what is described as a "reliable source" that tapes of Vick exist that would tie him directly to the burgeoning scandal and a possible felony charge.
"We don't know where (the tapes) are or if they do indeed exist, but I have been told that they are out there," said Strouse, who is also affiliated with two other organizations involved in the welfare of animals. "Without knowing where they are, there's no possibility of getting a search warrant at this point."
Strouse said she has also talked with individuals who can "put Vick on that property" during matches. However, those individuals have been reluctant to testify at this point, leaving much of the evidence against Vick that has become public at this point as circumstantial.
Last month, Vick's residence in Smithfield, Va., was raided and dog-fighting paraphernalia was confiscated. Vick initially denied any knowledge of the situation, blaming family and friends for the operation. However, Vick declined to comment on the advice of attorneys when approached at the Falcons' mini-camp over the weekend.
Regardless, Strouse said she is "very confident" about eventually tying Vick directly to the dog fighting based on the evidence she and other investigators have gathered. The information has come after years of talk throughout the Newport News area where Vick grew up that he has been involved in dog fighting.
For her part, Strouse was not backing down and essentially challenged Surry County Commonwealth attorney Gerald Poindexter to charge Vick. Last week, Poindexter made statements indicating he was reluctant to charge anyone with dog fighting.
"He was at the home and saw the equipment that we seized," Strouse said of Poindexter. "When we were there, he said he had enough right there to issue an indictment. He didn't say who he would indict, but he said he had enough.
"Now, with what he has said, it makes you think, 'What in the world is going on in Surry County?' This certainly doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy about the Surry County attorney," Strouse said.
Poindexter did not return a call from Yahoo! Sports on Monday.
Dog fighting is a felony in 48 states and is a misdemeanor in Idaho and Wyoming. In Virginia, a conviction can carry up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500, Strouse said.
Before the NFL draft in late April, Vick met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the situation. In addition, Falcons owner Arthur Blank has expressed growing concern with the investigation.
Earlier this offseason, the Falcons traded backup Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans and later signed veteran Joey Harrington to be Vick's primary backup. However, Harrington is not seen as a long-term solution.
On Friday, Vick politely told a group of approximately 30 reporters that he wasn't going to discuss the latest controversy and that the only thing on his mind was football.
"It is still under investigation, and once it is over, we will talk about it. As of right now, I cannot talk about the situation," Vick said. His lone departure from that was to say: "Don't plan on talking about me anymore unless it's about football."
While Vick's non-answer was predictable, it was also an interesting backtrack from only two weeks before. On April 27, the day before the draft, Vick was in New York to promote the NFL Quarterback Challenge. At the time, Vick was asked about the investigation in Virginia and disassociated himself from the house and the investigators' findings.
Vick's response was quickly refuted. According to several media outlets, neighbors said that Vick was seen in the area regularly and had even purchased materials such as syringes, which are often used in the training of dogs for fighting.
On Friday, NFL scout, one-time Yahoo! Sports analyst and current FOX Sports Radio host Chris Landry took it a step further during an interview on 620 WDAE in Tampa, Fla. Landry said that Ray Buchanan, a former Atlanta defensive back, told him that Vick has been involved in dog fighting for years.
"(Buchanan) tells me that Michael has been into this dog fighting for so long that … he not only knew about, he is behind all of it," Landry said. "He's paying for all of it … Apparently, he's into it big time."
Buchanan strongly denied saying any of that when contacted by Yahoo! Sports on Monday.
"I have to talk to Chris about all of that because I didn't say anything like that at all," Buchanan said. "If I was going to say any of that, I would have said it myself on my own radio program. I don't know anything about Michael being involved in any of that and I would not snitch on a player if I did. I'm a player's mouthpiece."
These developments led to conjecture about whether Vick will get in trouble with federal authorities and/or the NFL. Blank told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that he is obviously concerned.
"From the facts we have so far, it's not a pretty picture. It's clearly an issue, and we'll wait to see what revolves around it," Blank said.