Seven to plead guilty in cockfighting case
Published 3:07 pm Thursday, August 11, 2022
By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor
Seven Verbena residents have signed agreements to plead guilty to cockfighting related charges in a 2021 U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division case.
On Aug. 5 William Colon ‘Big Jim’ Easterling, 75; Brent Colon Easterling, 37; and William Tyler Easterling, 29; agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit violation of the
animal fighting laws and operating an illegal gambling business.
William Colon Easterling also agreed to plead guilty to sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture around Jan. 23, 2021, according to court documents.
Brent Easterling also agreed to plead guilty to illegally selling animals specifically for fighting around Sept. 2, 2020 and Sept. 18, 2020.
William Tyler Easterling also agreed to plead guilty to illegal use of interstate to promote or further instrumentality for animals fights and animal fighting around May 16, 2018 and March 10, 2021.
Others from Verbena with charges had signed plea agreements on June 3.
According to court documents, George William ‘Billy’ Easterling, 55; and Thomas Glyn ‘Junior’ Williams, 33, agreed to plead guilty conspiracy to commit violation of the animal fighting and operating an illegal gambling business.
Kassi Brook Easterling, 38, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit violation of the animal fighting.
Thomas Williams also agreed to plead guilty to illegally owning animals specifically for fighting “and aiding and abetting such activities,” according to court documents.
Amber Nicole Easterling, 23, also agreed to plead guilty to “Sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture on or about Jan 23, 2021,” according to court documents filed on June 3.
The charges stem from the alleged operation of large-scale cockfighting, including “a cockfighting arena or ‘pit’ with stadium seating for approximately 150 people and several rings to host cockfights,” from January 2018 until 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release from November 2021.
A sentencing date for the case of three of the defendants is set for Sept. 29 and Nov. 8 for the other four.
Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Foundation states in a press release that it urged the court “to mete out prison time and six-figure fines on the perpetrators.”
“It is critical that the federal court impose substantial prison time and fines on the Easterlings for their central role in a complex, demonstrably illegal, multimillion-dollar animal fighting syndicate that stretched across the globe,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “The other big cockfighting networks in the U.S. are watching and hoping that they won’t be next if the federal government punishes them in a way that is aligned with the strict penalties provided for in the law.”
The organization states that the Easterlings are “part of a far larger network of animal fighters in Alabama and throughout the United States that have made America the breeding ground for the global cockfighting industry.”
“The rule of law matters, including when it applies to animal cruelty,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action and a native Alabamian from Mobile. “Given the Yellowhammer State’s anti-cockfighting law warrants less in the way of penalties than a parking ticket, it’s vital that the federal government step in and deliver justice. The action of the U.S. Dept. of Justice in saying that it will not tolerate animal fighting operations will reverberate from the shores of Orange Beach to Lookout Mountain and everywhere in between.”
Animal Wellness Action also reported having evidence that Brent Easterling had talked about selling birds to audiences beyond the United States.