April 30th, 2008 12:27 AM
Ex-Surry deputy says he had uphill fight in Vick case
Ex-Surry deputy says he had uphill fight in Vick case | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com
A year after he first stepped into Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound, the local investigator who helped convict the NFL star spoke Monday about the friction he said he felt with the local prosecutor during the case .
Bill Brinkman, a nine-year veteran of the Surry County Sheriff’s Department , helped federal prosecutors convict the former Virginia Tech star and Atlanta Falcons quarterback along with three others in the dogfighting ring.
Brinkman said that his boss in the Western Tidewater community, Sheriff Harold Brown, told him a week into the investigation last spring that Surry Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Poindexter wanted him fired. Brinkman said he was released from his position in December, with no explanation from Brown other than that he was going to make some changes and “go in a different direction.”
Both Poindexter and Brown were re-elected in November.
The Vick case was an issue in the commonwealth’s attorney campaign . A federal grand jury indicted Vick two months before Poindexter brought state charges.
Vick pleaded guilty in August to a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge and is serving a 23-month prison sentence. Three others were convicted as well.
The state case against Vick is scheduled to go to trial June 27.
Vick was raised in Newport News and purchased the Surry property in 2001. He admitted to financing a dogfighting ring that spanned six years at the Surry property and elsewhere. Vick sold the property last fall.
Speaking at his home in Surry County, Brinkman, 49, said that he worked with federal agents in the case largely because he was uncomfortable dealing with Poindexter.
He said that Poindexter often brought up a racial angle during discussions about the case and made accusations that the investigation was driven in part by race.
“Every time you met with him, it was a very unsettling, uncomfortable, degrading conversation,” Brinkman said. “Everything’s wrapped around race.”
Brinkman is white. Poindexter is black.
Brown on Monday denied Brinkman’s allegations. He shook his head no when asked about being pressured by Poindexter to fire the deputy.
Poindexter denied saying that he wanted the deputy gone.
“That is not true,” he said. “Does that even begin to sound plausible?”
Poindexter also denied making race an issue in the case, but he said critics of his handling of the case did.
Brown said he told Brinkman in December that he had decided not to keep him on the force, but he said it wasn’t a firing. He said the Vick case had something to do with his decision, as well as some other matters, but he would not elaborate.
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