Showing Animals Respect & Kindness tells Mississippi cockfighters & sheriffs “Cock-a-doodle-do!”
LEXINGTON, Kentucky––A federal grand jury on July 20, 2023 indicted six alleged cockfighters, cockpit owner/operators, and recent targets of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness investigations for illegal cockfighting and gambling activities at Isom, Letcher County, Kentucky.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] founder Steve Hindi had an immediate response and message for several other recent targets of SHARK cockfighting investigations, which might be translated as “Don’t wait for the feds to act. Shut down now, because we’re already there, gathering evidence the feds might use.”
“Most corrupt cop we’ve ever come across”
What Hindi actually said was, in an email to SHARK supporters, was “Mississippi cockfighter Buddy Baughman will hold another cockfight in Lee County, Mississippi this Sunday, July 23, because he knows that corrupt Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson won’t do a thing about it.
“Sheriff Johnson is quite possibly the most corrupt law enforcement officer we’ve ever come across,” Hindi charged, “which is really saying something given the corruption SHARK has dealt with over the past three decades.
(See “Recognized” for trash pickup, Mississippi sheriff ignored cockfighters, Animal fighters go down in Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, & Ohio, and Hitting cockfights in four states, SHARK takes on boxing champ Roy Jones Jr.)
“Unfortunately, Lee County isn’t the only place where criminal operations are ongoing,” Hindi continued. “The cockpit in Tippah County, Mississippi has an illegal fight scheduled for Saturday, July 29, 2023.”
Six suspects named
Hindi urged recipients of his email to notify Johnson and Tippah County sheriff Karl Gaillard of the scheduled cockfights, in part to “keep creating the record of them refusing” to do their jobs.
“Either these police do their job,” Hindi said, “or we have a record of their intentional failure.”
Hindi did not say how Showing Animals Respect & Kindness obtained the purported Mississippi cockfighting schedules, which have a tendency to change abruptly when local sheriffs actually move against the cockpits. The Tennessee indictments, however, offered a major clue to the cockfighting schedule source.
Named, but not identified by specific age or address, were Robert Dwayne Baker, Brandon Honeycutt, and Chris Prater of eastern Kentucky; Virgil G. Saylor and Tina M. Miller of Tennessee; and Henry Locke of Georgia.
What they are charged with
“Baker, Saylor, Miller and Honeycutt are charged with conspiring to operate cockfights,” summarized Lexington Herald Leader reporter Bill Estep.
“Saylor also is charged with using Facebook to advertise the schedule for fights,” Estep added. “Honeycutt faces a separate charge of attempting to exhibit a rooster in a fight and possessing a rooster for the purpose of putting it in a fight.
“Prater is charged with the same thing and also faces a charge of causing a child under age 16 to attend a cockfight,” Estep continued.
“All of the charges are punishable by up to five years in prison for a conviction,” Estep explained, “except for taking a child to a cockfight, which carries a maximum three-year sentence.”
“American Testing Facility”
“The pit at Isom was known as American Testing Facility or the Whitesburg Chicken Pit, according to the indictment,” continued Estep.
“Baker operated the Letcher County cockfighting pit with help from Saylor and Miller, who received a percentage of the proceeds, the indictment charges.
“The venue allegedly had weekly cockfights and featured stadium-style seating; a main fighting pit and several side pits; a concession stand; and an area for selling cockfighting accessories,” Estep detailed, including “gaffs, which are sharp pieces of metal to be attached to a rooster’s leg to slash the other rooster.
Three cockfights in February 2022
“The indictment alleged that Locke sold gaffs at the fights and Honeycutt helped to referee fights. The indictment cites three cockfights which Baker, Saylor and Miller allegedly organized and managed in February 2022,” Estep said.
“One [cockfight] was attended by about 400 people and the other two had about 200 spectators each.”
The new federal cockfighting indictments follow others issued by a federal grand jury on February 24, 2022 in London, Kentucky, unsealed on March 1, 2022.
(See Rare busts hit cockfighting, dog torture, & other Appalachian pastimes, Cockfighters cut deals & hack reporting doesn’t cut it in Kentucky, FBI raids alleged Kentucky cockpit; 31 cockfighters “disappear” in Philippines and Alleged cockfighter indicted for bribery in Kentucky, others named.)
SHARK was there
Citing more than a dozen alleged specific dates of cockfights held at various Kentucky locations between November 2018 and July 2021, the February 2022 indictments hinted that a February 25, 2022 raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the Whitesburg cockpit, and rumored simultaneous raids on other Kentucky cockpits, were directed at apprehending thirteen of the individuals named by the grand jury.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness drones, hidden cameras, and undercover informants monitored many of the cockfights mentioned in the indictments, including the February 25, 2022 cockfight at Whitesburg that apparently led to the July 20, 2023 indictments.
Authorities had info years before indictments
Much of the information gathered by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness was shared with federal, state, and local authorities months––and even years––before the first federal indictments were issued.
Much also was posted to YouTube by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness and was reported by ANIMALS 24-7.
Both Animal Wellness Action, working against cockfighting on the legislative side of the issue, and Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, whose investigative work on cockfighting is aided by the Humane Farming Association, welcomed the latest federal indictments of alleged cockfighters and cockfighting promoters.
“Kentucky State Police have been delinquent”
However, SHARK founder Hindi pointed out, “The Kentucky State Police have been delinquent in not bringing a single cockfighting case this year, despite our giving them a roadmap of the cockfighting pits operating throughout eastern and central Kentucky.
“Governor Andy Beshear has sidestepped his responsibility in enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth,” Hindi charged. “The Kentucky State Police should be partnering with the federal government in these cases, but they have been standing on the sidelines,” Hindi said.
“Animal Wellness Action has issued a series of reports on illegal gamecock breeders operating in Kentucky,” elaborated Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle, “while SHARK has penetrated illegal fighting pits throughout the state, though concentrated in eastern Kentucky. Earlier this year, the groups released a map identifying 16 fighting arenas that had been recently operating in the state.
“Feds may be knocking on their doors next”
“We know where so many other pits are operating,” Pacelle said, “and these indictments remind other cockfighters that the feds may be knocking on their doors next.”
Pacelle mentioned having “led legislative efforts that have upgraded the federal law against animal fighting five times between 2002-2018,” during his tenure as president of the Humane Society of the U.S., “and there is an additional upgrade, the ‘Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High-Risk Trafficking Act,’ or FIGHT Act, that is likely to be considered this year to strengthen federal law even further,” as a proposed amendment to the Farm Bill.
“The FIGHT Act,” Pacelle said, “amending Section 26 of the Animal Welfare Act, would enhance enforcement opportunities by banning simulcasting and gambling on animal fighting; halting the shipment of mature roosters shipped through the U.S. mail (it is already illegal to ship dogs through the mail); creating a citizen suit provision, after proper notice to federal authorities, to allow private actions against illegal animal fighters; and enhancing forfeiture provisions to include real property for animal fighting crimes.”