By Sonja Barisic
SURRY, Va. - Gail P. 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 letter continued.
The missive was the latest bit of unwelcome attention - from angry callers and writers, as well as from scores of reporters - thrust upon this rural county of 7,000 because of allegations of dogfighting at a home the Atlanta Falcons quarterback owns here. Vick is from Newport News, a city about 35 miles east of Surry.
The letter shocked Clayton, the county Circuit Court clerk. She's received about a dozen e-mails and calls about the case, mostly from strangers accusing county authorities of acting too slowly because they have not charged Vick, who faces a Nov. 26 trial on federal dogfighting charges.
But the letter that arrived Thursday "crossed the line" with its racism, she said.
"I feel the letter had to be from someone who had knowledge of me being a black clerk in this office," Clayton said. Surry County Sheriff Harold D. Brown and prosecutor Gerald G. Poindexter also are black, as is Vick.
"Whoever this (writer) is, I'm not planning on going anywhere," Clayton said.
The 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. The search warrant never was executed because Poindexter didn't like the way it was worded. Earlier in his career, Poindexter has said he had another dogfighting case dismissed because of an illegal search.
"You should all be ashamed of yourselves," one correspondent wrote in an e-mail on May 30 to Clayton, Brown and Poindexter.
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.