Authorities say seven Alabama residents have been arrested for running a large-scale cockfighting project using illegal gambling and breeding.
The defendants ran a 150-seat Duke wrestling arena around several different fighting venues beginning in 2018, Based on a federal indictment.
Among those arrested, all residents of Verbena: William Colon “Big Jim” Easterling, 75; Brent Colon Easterling, 37; Casey Brooke Easterling, 38; William Tyler Easterling, 29; George William “Billy” Easterling, 55; and Thomas Glenn “Junior” Williams, 33, who are all charged with conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act and operating an illegal gambling business.
The Department of Justice announced that they were additionally charged, along with 23-year-old Amber Nicole Easterling, on a primary charge of operating an illegal gambling business. In addition, Tyler Easterling was charged with one violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to capture and kill a great horned owl.
Easterlings also made three breeding operations near the fighting pit, officials said, selling toys and weapons to the birds, with one rooster selling for $800.
Each defendant faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Cockfights are brutal matches in which bird owners attach razor blades to the legs of trained cocks that are used to cut and stab an opponent until the cock dies or refuses to continue the fight, while spectators gamble on the outcome.
Often, the Department of Justice said, one or both roosters are killed. Mortally wounded birds are sometimes moved to the side while bets are placed on which animal will die first.
Animal activist organizations such as Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation have praised the arrests.
The organizations released a report in 2020 that identifies Brent Easterling as a major international trader for warrior cocks.
Since the decriminalization of cockfighting in Alabama, the organization said, a federal indictment was needed to prosecute animal smugglers.
“If law enforcement were to stop illegal cockfighting in my home state of Alabama, that action could only be done by the Department of Justice because cockfighting is de facto decriminalized in Yellowhammer,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action. It is a mobile phone.
“While dogfighting is a felony in Alabama, cockfighting requires fewer penalties than a parking offense, and the law has not been updated since the 1800’s. The United States’ action by saying it would not tolerate animal fighting would resonate from Mobile to Huntsville and everywhere in between.”