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 months.
"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 probation.
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 hearing.
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 sentence.
"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 States, agreed.
"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," Stephen A. 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.