Hindi beaten, drone destroyed, while trying to videotape site of suspected cockfight
IRONTON, Ohio––A Lawrence County, Ohio grand jury on February 23, 2021 indicted suspects James V. “Bub” Newcomb II, 53, of Waterloo, Ohio, and distant Newcomb neighbor Shannon Lee Clark, 35, on multiple felony counts originating in a January 3, 2021 alleged assault on Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi.
The alleged assault, the beginning of which was entirely caught on video, began moments after Hindi launched a drone to videotape the premises where Showing Animals Respect & Kindness had been tipped that a cockfight was either soon to occur or was already underway.
The Showing Animals Respect & Kindness investigation was part of a nationwide campaign against cockfighting funded by the Humane Farming Association.
Six staples, a separated back, broken rib, & lost drone
Hindi suffered multiple injuries from being tackled, thrown to the ground, and allegedly repeatedly kicked by both men, including a head wound that required six surgical staples to close a separated back, and a broken rib.
The alleged assailants also destroyed the drone controller and, thereby, the drone itself, since it could not be safely landed without the controller.
The Lawrence County grand jury, after hearing testimony from Hindi and other witnesses, indicted Newcomb on two counts of second degree felonious assault, two counts of fifth degree felony theft, and one count of felonious evidence tampering.
Clark was indicted on one count of second degree felonious assault, one count of fifth degree felony theft, and one count of felonious evidence tampering.
Second degree felonious assault in Ohio, defined as “knowingly causing serious physical harm,” carries a potential penalty of up to eight years in prison, a fine of $15,000, and five years on probation.
Fifth degree felony theft involves a case in which the value of stolen property is at least $1,000 but less than $7,500.
A fifth-degree felony theft conviction carries a prison sentence ranging from six to 12 months in prison, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
Tampering with evidence in Ohio, according to the web site of the Columbus, Ohio criminal defense law firm Koenig & Owen LLC, means “to alter, conceal, or destroy anything with the purpose to hinder its value in an official proceeding or investigation.
“Prosecutors often charge tampering with evidence in connection with another charge in order to gain leverage in resolving the case by plea bargain,” the Koenig & Owen web site continues.
Adds the web site of Cleveland criminal defense attorney Jeff Hastings, “Being charged with any crime is serious, but an added charge of ‘Tampering with Evidence’ in Ohio can make matters much worse. A person convicted of tampering with evidence can face up to three years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000, and this is in addition to any other charges.”
Defendants Newcomb and Clark are, in short, in a heap of trouble.
Newcomb could potentially be sentenced to serve up to 21 years in prison, if convicted on all charges and ordered to serve the maximum time on each count, consecutively.
Clark could potentially be sentenced to serve 12 years.
In all likelihood, however, neither defendant would get the maximum, and any prison time would be served concurrently.
Both Newcomb and Clark, however, have prior felony convictions. While Ohio is not technically a “three strikes” state, in which a third felony conviction carries a mandatory life sentence, sentencing can be significantly more severe for defendants convicted as “repeat violent offenders,” and/or in cases involving drug trafficking and evidence tampering.
Public records indicate that a James Newcomb was charged with domestic violence in Cincinnati on September 1, 1999, but the charge was dropped three weeks later.
A James Newcomb was charged with littering on October 27, 2001, also in the Cincinnati area.
Cincinnati is 132 miles north of Ironton and Waterloo, so the accused in those cases may not have been the same James Newcomb.
Closer to home
A James Newcomb was charged with drug abuse and possession of drug paraphernalia on March 11, 2005, however, in Portsmouth, Ohio, just 27 miles north. The paraphernalia charge was dropped after this James Newcomb pleaded guilty to the drug abuse charge.
Arrested on July 19, 2010, James and Rebecca Newcomb, both of 366 Township Road 267, Waterloo, Ohio, the same location as the alleged assault on Steve Hindi, on February 17, 2011 pleaded not guilty to trafficking in marijuana, a fourth degree felony.
James Newcomb and his wife Rebecca “Beckie” Newcomb operate the Newcomb Game Farm at this address. Beckie Newcomb is also secretary of the Ohio Game Bird Association, headquartered at the same address.
James Newcomb was released from custody pending trial on the 2011 charges on $50,000 bond.
Rebecca Newcomb reversed her plea to guilty on March 24, 2011, and was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term plus three years on probation.
James Newcomb was convicted on April 6, 2011.
Shannon Lee Clark
Shannon Lee Clark, the Ironton Tribune reported on April 8, 2008, “pleaded guilty last month to assaulting a former Ironton police officer,” bringing “a four-year prison sentence,” with a possibility of judicial release after one year.
The victim, Shawn Rawlins, left the Ironton Police Department in 2005. “Authorities contend Clark and Rawlins ran into each other at a bar earlier this year,” the Ironton Tribune said, “and Clark assaulted Rawlins. Rawlins, who is no longer in law enforcement, once took Clark to jail after Clark was arrested by another Ironton officer.”
Added the Ironton Tribune, “Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Mack Anderson said Clark, who was out of jail on bond until sentencing, was alleged to have told someone he planned to get even with Rawlins once he is released from prison and that the next time Rawlins would not be around to file charges against him. Technically,” Anderson said, “this is retaliation, a third-degree felony.”
The incident that brought the charges
Public records show that Shannon Lee Clark was previously arrested for “operating on suspended/revoked operators license” in Greenup, Kentucky, on September 1, 2007.
Shannon Lee Clark was also booked in Ironton for alleged theft on September 6, 2012.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness video, made public at https://youtu.be/M8hIIczNeOA5 on January 5, 2021, shows that the incident leading to the alleged January 3, 2021 felony offenses began when Newcomb, with Clark behind him, approached Hindi. Hindi appeared to be on the Lawrence County public road right-of-way, near the entrance to 366 Wiseman Cemetery Hill Road.
The gate demarcating the end of public access and the beginning of private property is visible in the background, some distance away.
Newcomb cursed Hindi, forcibly taking the drone controller from Hindi, and smashed the drone controller against a mailbox labeled “Newcomb.”
Threatened to kill Hindi
Hindi advised Newcomb that interfering with a drone in flight is a violation of Federal Aviation Agency regulations, since it can cause a dangerous crash.
In view of the grand jury indictments, it also appears to have allegedly constituted evidence tampering.
Newcomb and the man now identified as Shannon Lee Clark allegedly then beat, kicked, and threatened to kill Hindi, in clearly audible statements.
Hindi did not, as of January 5, 2021, have the identification of Newcomb that eventually brought the criminal charges against him, but ANIMALS 24-7 investigator Beth Clifton made the identification within an hour of seeing the video.
Chased & rammed car
The Showing Animals Respect & Kindness video, interrupted soon after the first alleged assault on Hindi, resumed with footage from another Showing Animals Respect & Kindness investigator’s internally mounted vehicle camera.
Two suspects chased the investigator’s car, ramming it repeatedly with a pickup truck bearing the Ohio license plate number HIL 1286.
Eventually the investigator’s vehicle was run off the road, suffering extensive damage. An initial insurance report declared the vehicle “totaled,” Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7.
“Had to close our junkyard”
The cases against Newcomb and Clark are tentatively set to be tried before Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas judge Andrew P. Ballard, serving since 2017, on an as yet unspecified date.
Lawrence County prosecutor Brigham M. Anderson is to handle the case against both defendants, according to the charge sheet.
Beckie Newcomb in a February 20, 2021 web posting trying to raise funds for her husband’s defense said James Newcomb would be represented by “local lawyer Chris Delawder,” formally known as Robert C. Delawder, who is a former Lawrence County prosecutor.
“We have had to close our junkyard and start selling our cars,” Beckie Newcomb said. “My husband and I have worked very hard for several years for the gamefowl community and now we need help.”
By “gamefowl community,” Beckie Newcomb self-evidently did not mean the gamefowl themselves.
Fundraising auction of guns & gamecock paraphernalia
The Newcomb address, 366 Township Road 267, Waterloo, Ohio, is on February 26, 2021 to host a fundraising auction of items including alleged cockfighting paraphernalia and a variety of firearms, knives, and power tools.
“We are asking for donations of items to be auctioned off. Anything from gamefowl to antiques,” an online announcement from Kentucky Gamefowl Breeders Association president Darcy Blevens said.
The announcement also advertised “Live music: Marty Bentley and family.”
Searching for background on who Marty Bentley might be turned up multiple postings on various web sites that “Marty Bentley was the owner-operator of 145 Music Group and was an original partner in the Branson Gospel Music Convention until June 2009. Marty Bentley worked in Southern Gospel in Murfreesboro, Hendersonville, and Nashville, Tennessee. Marty Bentley did not fulfill obligations to partners and clients and is being investigated for fraud, misappropriation of funds, and breech of contract. He has also gone by names including Paul Martin, Martin Bentley, and Paul Morgan.”
World Slasher Cup
Much more recently, in fact on February 26, 2021, the Manila Standard reported the participation in the World Slasher Cup cockfighting tournament of “Marty Bentley and Brett McCormick from Ohio, who had travelled to the Philippines twice before to check out the World Slasher Cup.”
Bentley and McCormick were said to have competed in January 2021 “with their Roundhead Albany Crosses and Kelsos.”
“We loved it. That’s why we’re back,” the Manila Standard quoted Bentley.
Civil suit to follow
Regardless of the disposition of the criminal charges that Newcomb and Clark are now facing, they will have further legal trouble.
Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 earlier that the day in court he is most anticipating will come in response to a civil suit to be brought against the Newcombs and Clark.
That lawsuit, now in preparation, seeks compensation for extensive personal injuries and property damage.
Including medical bills, the total damages could exceed the estimated $140,000 value of the 366 Wiseman Cemetery Hill Road property.