Projected busiest traffic weekend ever gives Kentucky State Police an excuse––but what explains 16 years since last state cockfighting prosecution?
LEXINGTON, Kentucky––Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] and the Kentucky State Police appear to be rocketing toward a head-on collision over the 2021 Fourth of July weekend, with the Fourth itself predicted to be the busiest traffic day of the twenty-first century so far.
Recently lifted or eased COVID-19 restrictions, on top of the usual Fourth of July rush to the roads, promise to have every cop shop in Kentucky––as around the U.S.––assigning officers to overtime duty.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness meanwhile is escalating an already intensive online campaign demanding that the Kentucky State Police move against ten known cockfighting venues that are believed to have scheduled cockfights over the weekend.
Speeding aggressive drunk drivers
According to data gathered by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, “Last year in Kentucky, there were 62 crashes due to a drunken and/or drugged driver over the Fourth of July holiday period, resulting in 39 injuries and two deaths.
“Crash reports and citation data indicates 31% of crashes in Kentucky involve a speeding or aggressive driver,” the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety added in a pre-Fourth of July weekend media release.
“Males are the driver in 66% of those speed-related crashes,” the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety continued.
The Fourth of July weekend highway safety data gives the Kentucky State Police a plausible pretext for ignoring what is also traditionally one of the busiest cockfighting weekends of the year.
“SHARK will be in Kentucky”
But how many inebriated, aggressive drivers are speeding to or from a cockfight?
Undercover video from inside Kentucky cockfighting arenas suggest the concession counters sell quite a lot of beer.
Further, as Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi points out, the Fourth of July weekend would not feature cockfighting tournaments at ten or more long notorious cockfighting locations if the Kentucky State Police had moved earlier to close those locations in response to frequent tips from SHARK, including undercover video showing police officers actually providing security for illegal cockfights.
“SHARK will be in Kentucky on the weekend of the Fourth, patrolling cockfighting pits,” Hindi pledged to supporters on June 24, 2021. “We are challenging the local sheriffs and state police troops for each pit to be there with us. We are also calling on Governor Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron to have representatives with us as well.
“Last year at this time,” Hindi reminded, “SHARK had shut down all known cockfighting locations in Kentucky. We provided the exact latitude/longitude coordinates of those locations for all of them, and drone overflight footage for most to both the applicable sheriffs, and the Kentucky State Police.
“The shutdown held for a few months,” Hindi said, “until inexplicably the police agencies allowed those locations, and others newly discovered, to reopen, demonstrating that it is the cockfight mafia, not the rule of law, that controls Kentucky.
“The mind-boggling claim made by the state police for their inaction is that they are ‘investigating,’” Hindi charged, “while county sheriffs have simply refused to respond.
Cops let 33 cars escape
“We have focused in on Kentucky,” Hindi explained, “because of the corruption of law enforcement, and collusion between the police and criminal cockfighters. In one incident, undercover SHARK investigators filmed two Clay County sheriff’s deputies socializing with cockfighters at a pit in Manchester last summer. In other incidents, state police actually set up a security zone around cockfight pits to protect cockfighters from exposure by animal protectors.”
On June 6, 2020, a SHARK hidden camera set up near the Honest Abe’s cockpit in Big Pine, Kentucky, captured two Kentucky State Police cars arriving at the scene of a cockfight that SHARK had under surveillance––and then backing aside to allow 33 vehicles, mostly new-looking pickup trucks, to make their escape.
“Illegal drugs, weapons, organized crime”
“Cockfighting is much more than animal cruelty and illegal gambling,” Hindi emphasized. “Cockfighting is linked to illegal drugs, weapons, organized crime and human trafficking,” Hindi mentioned.
Hindi could have mentioned speeding and aggressive driving too, from recent direct experience.
Specifically, 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 case has not yet gone to trial.
Had just launched drone
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.
SHARK video of the incident also captured a pickup truck apparently driven by one of the suspects chasing a vehicle driven by another SHARK investigator, ramming it and finally running it off the road into a ditch.
No charges have been filed in connection with that part of the incident.
“Cockfighters are extremely violent,” Hindi wrote to SHARK supporters. “We are risking ourselves by showing up and breaking up their big weekend. The Kentucky State Police need to be there. It’s time that the law was enforced and these disgusting cockfighting criminals thrown in jail, where they belong.”
“Ten established cockfight pits”
Hindi had on June 21, 2021 written directly to multiple Kentucky State Police post commanders, reminding them that, “Cockfighting is illegal in Kentucky, just as it is in all the other forty-nine states, both federally, and by your own state law.
“Below is a list of ten established cockfight pits that regularly hold illegal events,” Hindi said. “These are not makeshift operations. They have been in operation for years, and some have been illegally operating for decades.
“Law enforcement––local police, county sheriffs and state police––all know about these locations,” Hindi alleged. “We’ve filmed uniformed Kentucky cops in illegal cockfight arenas, we’ve been lied to by Kentucky cops who protect cockfighters, and had our lives threatened by those same cops. Many judges and politicians know what is going on and either turn a blind eye, or are actually involved.
“Going to hang Kentucky out to dry”
“We’ve tried to deal with law enforcement and others in government with courtesy and professionalism, but now we’re just going to hang Kentucky out to dry before the whole world,” Hindi threatened.
“Going forward,” Hindi said, “we will work with Kentucky citizens who are impacted by the crime of cockfighting––the ones who don’t take payoffs, and who don’t allow their neighborhoods to be destroyed by cockfighting’s many attendant crimes.”
A 2012 survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, an independent firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Jacksonville, Florida, found that 79% of Kentucky voters believed cockfighting to be felonious cruelty to animals. Only 12% believed cockfighting should be legal.
The poll was commissioned by the Humane Society of the United States.
“We will document illegal cockfights”
Hindi again wrote to multiple Kentucky State Police post commanders on June 28, 2021.
“It’s been 55 weeks,” Hindi recalled, “since SHARK investigators did our first undercover operation at the Shaker Hill cockfight pit in Butler County. This is significant because 55 weeks ago was the first time police told us they wouldn’t do anything about the cockfight because, they falsely claimed, they were ‘investigating.’ That excuse wasn’t worth anything then, and it is worth less than nothing over a year later.
“You have already been informed that SHARK investigators will patrol Kentucky this coming Fourth of July weekend,” Hindi continued. “We will document illegal cockfights to which you, in an act of extraordinary corruption, turn a blind eye. The more time passes, the more the world will know about the outright corruption and criminal complicity of the Kentucky State Police.
“There will be legal action”
“Know this,” Hindi warned. “If the cockfight mafia turns their violent criminal nature against any SHARK investigators, know there will be legal action against those involved, both as police, and if possible in an individual capacity. If a cop-turned-badged thug acts on behalf of the cockfight mafia, there will be accountability.
“SHARK will not be intimidated by either those criminal cockfighters, or their private security in the Kentucky State Police, or any corrupt sheriff’s offices.”
Hindi again listed ten alleged cockfighting locations in seven Kentucky counties, all of them previously identified in SHARK investigations, some of them named in previous investigations by other entities.
Then-Humane Society of the U.S. animal fighting campaigns manager John Goodwin in February 2010 released video of Kentucky State Police attending a cockfight at one of the locations Hindi named, the Laurel Creek Game Club, and told media “We’ve never been to the pit when there weren’t uniformed officers there.”
Humane Farming Association censored
Backing the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness campaign against cockfighting in Kentucky, Humane Farming Association representative Gail Eisnitz “paid by credit card in the amount of $1,625 for a horizontal advertisement to appear on Thursday, July 1  in the Lexington Herald Leader,” she emailed.
The advertisement was to amplify the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness demand that the known Kentucky cockfighting locations be closed, either before or during the Fourth of July weekend.
But the Lexington Herald Leader is owned by the McClatchy syndicate. McClatchy national account executive Matthew Weisberg late on June 28, 2021 emailed to Eisnitz that the ad “cannot make specific allegations against Laurel County or Clay County, or really the Kentucky State Police for that matter, without providing proof that passes muster with our review board.
“So if the client wants to remove that part of the text/ad copy and resubmit it that would be preferred, since I don’t think their proof will pass with legal at this point,” Weisberg said,
Weisberg appeared unaware that the SHARK allegations had already been aired by other regional news media, including the television stations WTVQ of Lexington and WKRC of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Further, the ad was accepted for publication by the Louisville Courier Journal and the Frankfort State Journal.
Big Blue Sportsman’s Club
The most recent major cockfighting bust in Kentucky, initiated by federal and state of Virginia law enforcement agencies, permanently closed the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky, “which had hosted cockfights for more than 30 years,” according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Justice media release.
The owners of the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club, Shirley Ray Slone, 73, and Vernon Kelly Slone, 69, both of McDowell, Kentucky, “forfeited $100,000 as part of their plea agreements, [and] were sentenced to probation for a term of one year,” after “each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to cause others to attend a cockfight. In addition,” the Department of Justice media release said, “the pair agreed to pay for the complete destruction of the 8,000 square-foot facility,” completed in early May 2017.
But the Slones, who opened the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club in 1977, had for nearly 20 years leased it to others, who actually held the cockfights.
Walter Dale & Greg Stumbo
“The man who allegedly ran that pit in Kentucky is Dale Stumbo,” blogged then-Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle, who now heads Animal Wellness Action, on May 8, 2014.
“It turns out,” Pacelle explained, “he is the cousin of [then] Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has been an active impediment to legislation to make cockfighting a felony in his home state.
Three members of the Stumbo family––Sonya K. Stumbo, her husband Walter Dale Stumbo, and their son Joshua Stumbo, were among the nine people convicted on federal charges in connection with the Big Blue Sportsman’s Club case.
Greg Stumbo, attorney general of Kentucky from January 2004 to January 2008, was previously a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1980 to 2004, and was speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives from January 2009 to January 2017.
Among Greg Stumbo’s legislative accomplishments was passing an “anti-dogfighting” bill in 2016 which prohibited only fights between four-legged animals.
This was widely interpreted, including by some Kentucky State Police spokespersons, as legalizing cockfighting, though cockfighting remains illegal under other laws still in effect.
A Democrat, Stumbo was defeated in the November 2016 general election, prompting then-Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, to remark that “Kentucky will be better for his absence.”
But Bevin had a comparable record on cockfighting, even addressing a 2014 rally hosted by the American Gamefowl Defense Network supporters at the Corbin Arena in Henry County, Kentucky. About 700 cockfighting enthusiasts attended.
Losing the Kentucky gubernatorial race to Andy Beshear in November 2020, despite campaign support from then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who also lost, Bevin pardoned 428 convicted felons before leaving office.
Among those pardoned were at least seven convicted murderers and at least three convicted rapists of children, one of whom also allegedly sent video of the crime to some of the victim’s schoolmates.
None of Bevin’s pardons, however, went to known cockfighters, perhaps because no known cockfighters were in Kentucky custody.
State cops kept the money & the t-shirts
The most recent cockfighting bust in Kentucky initiated by state police appears to have been an April 2005 raid on a 700-seat arena built by Marvin C. and Charlene Watkins, of Montgomery County, in 1992.
According to Lexington Herald-Leader staff writer Emily Yahr, “state police cited more than 500 people on animal cruelty charges,” but Montgomery District Judge William Lane threw out the charges against the spectators, claiming that they were not clearly included as offenders by the wording of the Kentucky anti-cruelty law.
Marvin Watkins then “pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to promote gambling,” Yahr wrote, receiving a two-year sentence suspended for five years, while the charges against Charlene Watkins were dropped.
“State police get to keep $171,000 in fees paid by entrants the day of the raid,” Yahr mentioned. “They also get to keep t-shirts and commercial items. The rest of the money, $257,038, will go to the Internal Revenue Service and/or the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet.”