Alleged cockfighters, dogfighters, & bedsheet boys exposed
TUPELO, Mississippi––Attentive viewers of a May 19, 2023 joint Zoom media conference presented by Animal Wellness Action and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] might have noted the absence of SHARK founder Steve Hindi from the speaker lineup.
Hindi, who checked in with ANIMALS 24-7 soon afterward, was in the field with the SHARK drone team, preparing to keep a promise by droning simultaneous cockfights at several different locations, and more during the rest of the weekend.
Gamecocks, moonshine, & marijuana
Those who logged into the Zoom media conference five minutes early might have caught discussion among the participants of a May 14, 2023 cockfighting bust in Middendorf, South Carolina, near the North Carolina line, where Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office deputies impounded 112 gamecocks, $15,295 in cash, and two jars of moonshine, making 38 arrests.
Other alleged cockfight attendees were charged with illegal possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and simple possession of marijuana.
Florida dogfighter gets 18 years
ANIMALS 24-7 and possibly others attending the Zoom media conference received word during the proceedings that Florida dogfighter Noble Gene Geathers, 56, had just been sentenced to serve 18 years in prison.
Geathers was convicted earlier in May 2023, after a five-day trial, on 12 counts of cruelty to animals, nine counts of animal fighting, and one count of promoting animal fighting.
“Each charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison,” explained Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“Circuit Judge Leah Case became emotional when she recounted the factors she considered in the sentence,” Fernandez noted.
“The case began,” Fernandez elaborated, “on February 22, 2021, when Daytona Beach Police and Volusia County Animal Control officers seized 42 dogs, including puppies,” all pit bulls, from Geathers’ home.
Also arrested at that time was co-defendant Benjamin Ponder III, 35.
Ponder, Fernandez added, “has entered a no-contest pleas to similar charges as part of a plea agreement and has yet to be sentenced.”
Meanwhile back on the Zoom media conference screen, attentive viewers might further have noticed that Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle, the lead speaker, delivered his message that the time has come for Mississippi law enforcement to enforce both anti-cockfighting and anti-dogfighting laws from Washington D.C., standing alongside two photographs of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.
Cockfighting and dogfighting may not be civil rights issues in themselves, but have a long history in the South, especially in Mississippi, of having been protected from effective law enforcement by the continuing influence within law enforcement of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist entities.
Crime & the Ku Klux Klan
Historically, the Klan, including as active members many rural sheriffs, deputies, and constables, funded itself by extorting payoffs from operators of cockpits, dogfighting arenas, moonshiners, rum-runners, and brothels.
As the success of the civil rights movement gradually pulled the bedsheets off the nightriders obsessed exclusively with repressing African-Americans, the KKK and allied entities became less a political organization and more an organized crime syndicate, also extracting payoffs from card rooms, slot machine gambling, illegal drug production and distribution, and even “chop shops” engaged in dismantling and reselling parts from stolen cars.
Not surprisingly, cockfighting and dogfighting continue to be closely associated with the other rackets that have traditionally been under Klan protection.
Mississippi burning threat
Dogfighting in particular has in recent decades come to be dominated by African-Americans, like Geather, while cockfighting in much of the U.S. is done primarily by Latinos.
In the Deep South and Appalachia, though, where Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, with the support of the Humane Farming Association, and Animal Wellness Action are focusing their efforts, cockfighting especially remains chiefly a pursuit of white “good old boys,” with or without bedbugs in their hair from wearing dirty sheets.
As if to underscore that association, a sound clip apparently transmitted from WJTV of Jackson, Mississippi briefly interrupted Pacelle. In the sound clip a man recounted having been warned that if he did something [presumably on cockfighting], an anonymous caller said he would firebomb the man’s house.
“We will be in Lee County”
Emailed Hindi on May 16, 2023 to Mississippi Department of Public Safety press secretary Bailey C. Martin, “Illegal cockfights continue to be held in Lee County with the full knowledge and consent of Sheriff Jim Johnson.
“This weekend we will be in Lee County to document an illegal cockfight on the property of Buddy Baughman, outside Shannon, Mississippi, via drone. We will be easy to find.
“This obviously will not be well received by the cockfighters, who are violent criminals. We will also visit the sheriff’s office. Everything will be streamed, so whether it is the sheriff’s office or cockfighter Baughman’s illegal operation, Mississippi will not be shown in a good light.
“If the cockfighters believe they can get away with it,” Hindi warned, “tragedy could develop in a matter of seconds, especially at the site of the cockfight.
“Take immediate steps”
“I urge your department to take immediate steps to deal with this dangerous situation,” Hindi told Martin.
Hindi reminded Bailey that in an April 21, 2023 email, Bailey “stated that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating cockfights. Given the continuation of these illegal spectacles,” Hindi said, “we cannot accept this as a fact. Sheriff Johnson has had years to deal with these criminal operations, and has very deliberately chosen not to do so.
Are there any law-abiding police officers in cockfighting country?
“We want Sheriff Johnson to issue a statement that he will no longer tolerate cockfights in his jurisdiction,” Hindi said, “and we want him to stand by that promise. For any law-abiding police officer, that’s a no-brainer, because cockfighting is illegal everywhere in the United States, including in Mississippi,” and is a federal felony as well as a state crime.
“This is a powder keg waiting to go off. Your department is in a position to do something. Please do not hesitate to take strong, immediate action, before it is too late,” Hindi concluded.
Valentine’s day in court
What Hindi, Pacelle, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, Animal Wellness Action, the dozens of tipsters providing them information about illegal cockfights and dogfights, and the thousands of donors supporting their animal advocacy work would like to see is a crackdown on cockfighting in Mississippi as forceful as recent law enforcement efforts against dogfighting in Ohio.
Most recently, according to a U.S. Department of Justice media release, Michael Valentine, 40, of Bidwell, Ohio, on May 4, 2023 “admitted to raising and training over fifty dogs near his home in Gallia County, Ohio.
Pit bull attack led to dogfighting bust
“According to court documents,” the U.S. Department of Justice media release said, “law enforcement first investigated Valentine for dog fighting offenses in 2019, following a dog attack on a small child living with the defendant.
“That investigation led to a search warrant of the defendant’s residence and the seizure of 40 dogs. The search also recovered numerous items of dog fighting paraphernalia, including treadmills, veterinary supplies, and dog fighting videos.
“On March 8, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice media release continued, “a second search warrant was executed at the defendant’s residence as part of a fentanyl distribution investigation. That search revealed substantial evidence of drug distribution, as well as two assault-style rifles. In addition, a search of a nearby parcel of land revealed an additional 11 dogs, whom the defendant was keeping for purposes of dog fighting.”
Valentine previously pleaded guilty on July 13, 2022 to five counts of “dealing and possessing hundreds of grams of deadly fentanyl on a rural property in southern Ohio,” an earlier U.S. Department of Justice media release detailed.
Those convictions could have sent Valentine to prison for life three times over, had Valentine not accepted a plea bargain, believed to have included cooperation with law enforcement in ongoing investigations.
Jamaka Petzak says
Not at all surprising that those involved in this heinous cruelty also tend to be connected to other serious criminal activity.
Sharing with gratitude. This world is getting more nightmarish day by day.
Annoula Wylderich says
I’m so happy to see AWA, SHARK and Humane Farming working in tandem. I think they’ll be unbeatable and a formidable force. It’s encouraging to see a good example being set on how we can accomplish more and far quicker by working together. One thing we all agree upon is that animals can’t afford to wait.