Courts & Crime

Alabama judge hits dog-fighting defendants with up to 8 years

In a case stemming from the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history, a federal judge in Alabama has sentenced eight of 13 defendants to prison terms of up to eight years, the toughest penalty ever imposed on a participant in the illegal sport.

On Aug. 23, 2013, two animal rights protection groups assisted federal prosecutors and the FBI in seizing hundreds of dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia on Aug. 23, 2013. Federal and local authorities also seized firearms and drugs, as well as more than $500,000 in cash alleged to have been used to gamble on dog fights.

“These dogs lived in deplorable conditions that constituted extraordinary cruelty,” George L. Beck, Jr., the U.S. attorney in Montgomery, Ala., said. “They were made to fight and if they lost, they were killed.

“In addition to the brutality experienced by the dogs, these events attracted drug dealers and illegal gambling. It was not uncommon for large amounts of cash, often between $20,000 and $200,000, to change hands. The prospect of huge profits made these fights even more popular and provided a venue for other criminal activity.”

Clark Morris, the lead prosecutor in the case, said that 451 dogs have been rescued, including puppies born after the roundup.

“These dogs had skin infections, eye infections, ear infections, parasites,” she said. “We had one dog that so many fleas that he couldn’t even stand up.”

All 13 defendants have pleaded guilty. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins sentenced two of them on Wednesday, giving Edward Duckworth, 39, of Decatur, Ga. 14 months in prison and Jennifer McDonald, 36, of Collins, Miss., two months in prison, both on conspiracy convictions.

Earlier, he sentenced:

--Donnie Anderson, 50, of Auburn, Ala, to eight years in prison for conspiracy, sponsoring dog fights, possessing a fighting dog and operating an illegal gambling business.

--Demontt Allen, 38, of Houston, to five years in prison for conspiracy and participation in high-stakes dog fights.

--Michael Martin, 56, of Auburn, to five years in prison for conspiracy and felony possession of firearms.

--Irkis Forrest, 33, of Theodore, Ala., to three years in prison for conspiracy.

--William Antone Edwards, 43, of Brantley, Ala., to one year in prison for conspiracy.

--Sandy Brown, 48, of Brownsville, Ala., to six months in prison for sponsoring a dog fight.

Each defendant so far has been ordered, after completing those sentences, to also serve a two- or three-year term of supervised release, during which they are barred from possessing dogs.

A ninth defendant faces sentencing Thursday and the remaining four in the coming months.

“This is truly a landmark case for the animal welfare community,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of field investigations and response for the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which assisted in rescuing the dogs. “We hope this case serves as a precedent for future dog fighting cases and sends a message to dog fighters everywhere that this crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for the Humane Society of the United States, praised Judge Watkins for “making a strong statement” with stern sentences.

Link to evidence photos of the dogs

Email: ; Twitter: @greggordon2 .