James V. “Bub” Newcomb II didn’t like his time with Bubba
IRONTON, Ohio––Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas Judge Andrew Ballard on September 7, 2022 granted judicial release to James V. “Bub” Newcomb II, 55, of Waterloo, Ohio, but made explicitly clear that Newcomb is to have nothing whatever to do with cockfighting, people involved in cockfighting, and any other form of criminal activity during five years on probation.
James Newcomb spent ten months in the Ohio state penitentiary system after his November 10, 2021 sentencing for assaulting Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] founder Steve Hindi and SHARK investigator Adam Fahnestock.
Glaucoma & blood clot
Originally sentenced to serve from four to six years in prison, and fined $5,000, James Newcomb won early release for good behavior while in custody.
James Newcomb’s attorney, Jonathan T. Tyack, testified that James Newcomb is suffering from glaucoma and a blood clot in one lung.
James Newcomb was convicted on November 5, 2021, following a two-day jury trial, of one count of felonious assault for using his pickup truck to ram Fahnestock’s car, running it off the road into a deep ditch, after which the car was declared a total loss; one count of felony theft for causing the loss or destruction of a SHARK drone, the drone controller, and miscellaneous camera equipment; and one count of misdemeanor assault for beating Hindi.
James Newcomb and co-defendant Shannon Clark were caught by SHARK hidden cameras in the act of attacking Hindi and Fahnestock on January 3, 2021.
Hindi kicked & beaten twice
James Newcomb and Clark, both much bigger and younger than Hindi, charged Hindi moments after Hindi launched a drone from the public access to Newcomb’s property, well in front of Newcomb’s mailbox and gate, to investigate an alleged cockfight which was believed to be already underway.
The SHARK investigation was part of a nationwide campaign against cockfighting funded by the Humane Farming Association.
Newcomb was videotaped knocking the drone controller out of Hindi’s hand and smashing it first against his own mailbox, then against the car Fahnestock was driving.
Both Newcomb and Clark then allegedly participated in throwing Hindi to the ground, kicking and beating him repeatedly, threatening to kill him, and then assaulting and beating him again, minutes later, on another public road about a quarter mile away.
(See Investigators survive ambush attack at alleged cockfight in Ohio.)
Judge repeatedly questioned remorse
Lectured on November 5, 2021 by Judge Ballard about the importance of showing remorse as a factor in sentencing, and then asked if he had anything to say before Ballard pronounced sentence, Newcomb said only “I didn’t do it.”
Judge Ballard repeatedly raised his statement during the September 7, 2022 judicial release hearing, which offered James Newcomb his only chance to get out of prison before serving at least the first four years of his sentence.
Judge Ballard first heard defense attorney Tyack’s appeal on James Newcomb’s behalf.
Contended Tyack, “It is clear that this felonious assault offense,” a second-degree felony, “is less serious than conduct normally constituting-the offense. Mr. Fawnstock did not suffer any serious physical or psychological injury as a result of this incident, and while the conduct of Mr. Fawnstock and his compatriots may not. have provided a defense to Mr. Newcomb for the offense in question, it is clear from the evidence in this case that Mr. Fawnstock and his colleagues were the ones looking for trouble on day in question.”
Priors not mentioned
Both Fawnstock and Hindi pointed out in extensive written statements that, on the contrary, it was James Newcomb and Shannon Clark who were allegedly engaged in holding an illegal cockfight, who came past James Newcomb’s gate and mailbox to accost Fawnstock and Hindi on the public right-of-way.
Argued Tyack, “Defendant [James Newcomb] has no felony record, no juvenile record, no demonstrated pattern of drug or alcohol abuse,” and “has shown genuine remorse for the offense.”
In truth, both James Newcomb and his wife Beckie Newcomb had prior convictions related to marijuana trafficking.
Arrested on July 19, 2010, at the same address, 366 Township Road 267, Waterloo, Ohio, as the alleged first assault on Steve Hindi, both Newcombs on February 17, 2011 pleaded not guilty to trafficking in marijuana, a fourth degree felony.
Beckie 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.
“Game farm” & junkyard
The Newcombs went on to raise gamecocks at the Newcomb Game Farm. Beckie Newcomb served for several years as secretary of the Ohio Game Breeders Association, registered at the same address until July 2022.
Beckie Newcomb remained involved with the Ohio Game Breeders Association until at least two weeks after James Newcomb was sentenced in November 2021.
Beckie Newcomb is no longer listed as an Ohio Game Breeders Association director or officer, and the association no longer uses the Newcomb Game Breeders Association address.
The Newcombs also operated an automotive junkyard on the same property. They closed the junkyard after James Newcomb was indicted for assaulting Hindi and Fahnestock.
Fahnestock & Hindi rebutted “less serious” claim
Neither Fahnestock nor Hindi mentioned at the judicial release hearing that James Newcomb did have a prior conviction for a drug-related offense. But both Fahnestock and Hindi took strong issue with Tyack’s claim that “this felonious assault offense is less serious than conduct normally constituting the offense.”
Testified Hindi, “Mr. Newcomb’s crimes included physically attacking me, twice. Mr. Newcomb, with an accomplice, first attacked me as I stood just outside his property. The first attack left me with a deep head laceration requiring six staples to close, as well as a broken rib and a back separation.
“Mr. Newcomb’s second attack, again with an accomplice, occurred approximately a quarter mile away, well after I walked away from his property while injured and bleeding from his first attack.
Newcomb burned evidence
“In the first attack, a drone and controller were stolen, as well as two body cameras. In the second attack, a Sony video camera was taken and destroyed.
“Testimony at Mr. Newcomb’s trial indicated that Mr. Newcomb and uncharged accomplices intentionally destroyed this equipment and evidence by burning it.
“Still not done with his rampage, Mr. Newcomb used a pickup truck some time later to pursue a vehicle driven by my associate Adam Fahnestock.
“As Mr. Fahnestock drove on a well-traveled public road, Mr. Newcomb repeatedly rammed Adam’s vehicle, wrecking it a ditch on the opposite side of the road, miles away from Mr. Newcomb’s property.”
“Cockfights well known to community”
Hindi pointed out in both his written deposition and in oral testimony delivered at the judicial release hearing that “Newcomb’s cockfights were well known to the local community, including to people having no association with cockfighting. According to both local witnesses and a review of Google Maps, looking back at earlier satellite images, this criminal operation operated for at least ten years prior to January 3, 2021, when Mr. Newcomb committed his violent criminal acts to protect his illegal cockfighting operation.
Newcomb and his wife Beckie every year “held numerous illegal cockfights on their property,” Hindi continued. “A building was set up exclusively for the illegal cockfights, including stadium-style seating and multiple pits. In the pits, roosters with sharpened gaffs or blades attached to their legs were forced to fight, cutting and stabbing each other while people placed bets. Food was illegally served, without proper permits, during the cockfights.
Hosted cockfights while facing charges
“The Newcombs’ criminal enterprise went on for more than a decade,” Hindi charged, “with no interference from Lawrence County law enforcement. The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office chose not to investigate the cockfight on January 3, 2021. Even more appalling, the sheriff’s office allowed subsequent illegal cockfights Mr. Newcomb held on his property.
“Mr. Newcomb, while free and awaiting trial,” Hindi reminded the court, “promised to not commit crimes in the interim. But he did in fact hold a number of illegal cockfights during this period. An illegal cockfight held on July 18, 2021 was video recorded by an undercover investigator,” Hindi mentioned, as ANIMALS 24-7 reported on August 3, 2021.
(See Why Disney & Frontier Days are rich & alleged cockfighters are not.)
James Newcomb seen handling cock
“The video documentation clearly showed both James Newcomb and his wife Beckie involved in the cockfight which they hosted on their property,” Hindi recounted.
“James Newcomb was seen actually handling roosters, and Beckie Newcomb was shown counting money from the illegal event,” Hindi said.
Hindi went on to detail the repeated failure of the Lawrence County sheriff’s office and prosecutor’s office to respond effectively to advance notice of cockfights held on the Newcomb property.
This prompted Judge Ballard to point out to James Newcomb that alleged illegal activity undertaken in violation of his parole terms will be investigated by probation officers who answer directly to Ballard, not to other law enforcement agencies.
The remainder of the hearing for judicial release focused on the issue of whether or not James Newcomb expressed “genuine remorse” for his offenses.
Judge Ballard observed that two handwritten purported statements of remorse from James Newcomb appeared to have been written by different people. Ballard elicited admissions from both James Newcomb and attorney Tyack that the longer of the two statements was dictated to another inmate, since James Newcomb is illiterate.
Attorney wrote remorse statement
Attorney Tyack then wrote out the shorter statement for James Newcomb to copy.
Objected Hindi, “Newcomb says in his letter that he should have called the police. Mr. Newcomb certainly knows that he could not call the police to tell them that an animal protection organization was outside his property, because he was holding an illegal cockfight. So early in his ‘apology,’ James Newcomb engages in deception.
“This was life-threatening behavior”
“Newcomb apologizes to the people of Lawrence County for ‘any inconvenience.’ But for the grace of God, Mr. Newcomb’s criminal behavior could have easily killed innocent people who had nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Newcomb’s illegal activities. This was life-threatening behavior, not something that can reasonably be called an ‘inconvenience.’
“If Mr. Newcomb is serious about his apology,” Hindi emphasized, “he should admit what is known: that he was involved in illegal cockfighting. That’s why he couldn’t call the police. He should admit to the second attack he and his accomplice committed against me on Highway 4. He should tell the truth.
“Had Mr. Newcomb told the truth, I would have felt forgiveness for the past, and I would have had genuine hope for his future. Unfortunately, both Mr. Newcomb’s ‘Motion for Judicial Release,’ and his empty apology indicate that he has not changed in any positive way.
“I therefore do not believe that James Newcomb should be given his freedom,” Hindi finished, “and continue to believe that he represents a clear and present danger to society.”
After prosecuting attorney Steven J. Nord likewise argued that James Newcomb should not be released, Judge Ballard extensively questioned Newcomb on the point of remorse.
After several pointed admonitions from Judge Ballard about evasive responses, James Newcomb at last apologized directly to Steve Hindi by name.
Hindi accepted the apology, whereupon Judge Ballard granted the conditional release.
James Newcomb’s co-defendant, Shannon Lee Clark, 37, of Ironton, Ohio, was on April 18, 2022 sentenced to serve four years on probation, perform 200 hours of community service, pay court costs, and “complete a mental health assessment and comply with treatment recommendations.”
Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas Judge Andrew Ballard issued the plea-bargained sentence without offering any explanation why.
Judge Ballard had on November 10, 2021 rejected essentially the same plea bargain, warning Clark then, in so many words, that violent offenses of the severity he was originally charged with would require jail time.
Clark had been offered a suspended sentence by the prosecution in exchange for his testimony against Newcomb, but Judge Ballard indicated that he had not been informed about the deal.
Judge Ballard at that time described Clark’s testimony as having been of little value in securing Newcomb’s conviction on multiple counts.
Mary Finelli says
Anyone so violent, vicious, and untrustworthy should not be let out of prison, let alone be let out early. He is a danger to society and should be treated accordingly.
Jamaka Petzak says
Our “justice system” is a mockery and a laughinstock in all the world.
Sharing, with gratitude and sorrow.
“The law isn’t about justice. Coercion is central to our legal system, which presents one face to those in power, and a different face to those who fight this power. In the case of the former, coercion is systematized through a body of lawmakers and interpreters which supports and rationalizes the use of force by those in power to gain material possessions or otherwise bend certain others—the powerless, the silenced, the not-fully-human—to the will of the already powerful.” — Derrick Jensen
Especially when animal-rights activists are targeted by legally-protected commercial animal abusing industries.
Annoula Wylderich says
“Back woods” mentalities rarely result in justice being carried out, if ever. We can at least be grateful that he did some time at all. I found it interesting, but not surprising, that his first note of “apology” was directed to his family and community rather than the primary targets of his assaults.That says a whole lot about his sincerity.
Thanks for this update.
Hayley D. says
It’s…interesting to see illegal activity like this being completely out in the open, complete with Facebook page advertising “gamebirds” for fights and nothing is done about it because the local law enforcement doesn’t care or actively engages in it themselves. When things are like that, it makes the job of investigating and dealing with those involved in the bloodsports extremely challenging. My regards to Steve Hindi and Adam Fahnestock, who are seeing no justice from this.
Karen Davis says
Very disturbing that this violent individual is now free, probation and “community service” requirements notwithstanding. The unresolved issue is that cockfighting enthusiasts get away with torturing and murdering roosters, and one can only imagine what they do with the hens and roosters they use to produce the eggs that hatch to become their defenseless victims in the cockfighting ring. We currently have in our sanctuary 40 hens and 3 roosters confiscated from a staged cockfight in Virginia Beach in 2018. Seven of the original 50 have died since then, but at least they got a chance to live without a human being approaching them to do harm.
Appreciate the update. Glad SHARK Bit Back.
Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org