It could be an odd, South Carolina twist in the Michael Vick dogfighting case.

In 2001, while Charleston area pit bull breeder David Ray Tant was testifying under immunity in front of a Virginia grand jury, Vick appeared to be launching his own Virginia-based dogfighting kennel.

The timeline is based in part on Vick's indictment Tuesday on charges related to illegal dogfighting and a batch of forgotten documents on file at the Charleston County Courthouse.

Tant emerged as a brutal local figure in 2004 when he was arrested and ultimately pleaded guilty to 41 criminal counts of dogfighting. He had grown to become one of the world's most successful breeders of ferocious pit bulls.

In 2001, Tant was called to be a grand jury witness during a federal probe of dogfighting centered in western Virginia.

The jurisdiction included the nearby town of Blacksburg, home of Vick's collegiate alma mater, Virginia Tech, where the future star was preparing himself for the NFL draft.

Around the same time, Vick bought property in Smithfield, Va., for what would become Bad Newz Kennels, and he and other defendants began buying pit bulls from various states, according to the indictment.

The site soon became the center of a dogfighting operation, said the indictment.

Thomas A. Bondurant Jr., assistant U.S. attorney in Virginia, said Wednesday that too much time has passed for him to remember details about Tant's appearance or testimony.

But the timeline and geographic connection has fueled speculation into whether Tant and Vick ever crossed paths in the tight-knit world of dogfighting.

Tant had international fame in magazines and on Web sites. Vick's indictment lists several references to fights with South Carolina dogs, showing the multi-state nature of the blood sport.

Mark Plowden, spokesman for South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, said so far no connection has materialized from the reams of evidence collected for Tant's 2004 dogfighting trial.

"There is rumor and innuendo all around," he said. "But we're not aware of any connection between Tant and Vick."

Vick, now quarterback for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, has maintained he has done nothing illegal.

Tant's fall as a top-ranked illegal dogfighter came swiftly.

In April 2004, he was arrested when a land surveyor was wounded by a booby-trapped shotgun after accidentally wandering onto Tant's property near Rantowles-Red Top.

Investigators who converged on the scene found an expansive dogfighting operation, including a cattle prod, treadmills and sticks used to unclench a dog's jaws.

In November 2004, Tant halted his criminal trial midway through the testimony, opting to plead guilty to 41 counts of illegal dogfighting and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, one of the longest convictions for dogfighting in U.S. history. Vick faces up to six years in prison if convicted on the federal charges.

Though Tant's trial was moved to Greenwood because of pretrial publicity, his case file has remained at the Charleston County Courthouse, along with the case evidence, including dog harness and cages.

Those items are kept in the courthouse's evidence room.

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