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Surry County, Va. officials get angry mail about handling of Michael Vick dogfighting case

SURRY, Va. (AP) -Gail Clayton was talking to yet another reporter about the Michael Vick dogfighting case when a co-worker handed her a letter that had just arrived at the Surry County courthouse.

"Blacks - no matter how much money and education will always be of a jungle race!" read the handwritten, unsigned letter, postmarked Richmond and addressed to courthouse "Managers."

"Why dont the White Race in Surry take back their town from the ones that cant act civilized and obey the White laws as we do?"

The missive was the latest bit of unwelcome attention for this rural county of 7,000 people, thrust into the spotlight when federal authorities accused the Atlanta Falcons quarterback of sponsoring dogfighting at a local property he owns.

The letter shocked the county Circuit Court clerk, who said it "crossed the line" with its racism.

"I feel the letter had to be from someone who had knowledge of me being a black clerk in this office," Clayton said. "Whoever this (writer) is, I'm not planning on going anywhere."

She said she has received about a dozen e-mails and calls about the Vick case, mostly from strangers accusing county authorities of acting too slowly in its own dogfighting investigation.

Surry County Sheriff Harold Brown said the county investigation remains open.

"I can't reveal everything that's happening in the case," Brown said. "People don't understand that. Because it's not going the way they want it to go, as fast as they want it to move, then they say 'You're dragging your feet."'

Brown said he's received one or two calls about the case and more than 30 e-mails, from as far as Australia. About half the e-mails have been negative, he said. And he couldn't recall another case in his 28 years on the force, including 16 years as sheriff, that has attracted such attention.

Both he and prosecutor Gerald Poindexter are black, as is Vick.

The local case began in late April, when a drug raid at Vick's property turned up evidence of dogfighting. With a second search warrant, county authorities confiscated 66 dogs and equipment typically associated with a dogfighting operation.

In May, county authorities secured a third search warrant for the property after an informant said up to 30 dogs were buried there. But the search warrant never was executed because Poindexter didn't like the way it was worded.

On the day the county search warrant expired unexecuted, federal authorities moved in. They searched the property twice and indicted Vick on July 17.

Vick and two other men have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and face a Nov. 2 trial; a fourth defendant pleaded guilty Monday to dogfighting conspiracy charges as part of a plea agreement.

"You should all be ashamed of yourselves," one correspondent wrote in an e-mail on May 30 to Clayton, Brown and Poindexter. "Doing nothing about an obvious crime because it's linked to a hometown hero is disgusting. You people are just as bad as every person involved in this case by choosing to do nothing about it and I hope you all burn in hell for this!"

Poindexter did not return messages left for him in person at his office and by telephone.

AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Richmond contributed to this report.

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