Robert Dwayne Baker, the operator of a major cockfighting venue in Eastern Kentucky, pleaded guilty in federal court in Pikeville to one charge of conspiring to operate a cockfighting facility in Letcher County.

According to the court records, the venue was known variously as Isom, the Whitesburg Chicken Pit, or American Testing Facility.

Aside from the charge, Baker also agreed to pay 70,000 USD in lieu of the federal government taking the property and forfeiting the 15,395 USD that the authorities confiscated during a search in 2022.

At one point, the venue was thought to be one of the largest cockfighting operations in Eastern Kentucky. Court records note that Baker’s brother built the cockfighting arena and operated it with help from Baker and others. Baker inherited the pit in February 2022.

The venue had stadium-style seating for an estimated 500 people, a concession stand, a main fighting pit, a station to weigh roosters, and an area to sharpen the metal gaffs attached to the gamefowls’ legs, used to slash opponents.

According to the affidavit by Zachary Bryson, a Kentucky State Police Officer on a task force with the FBI, federal and state authorities have done undercover investigations of cockfighting in Eastern Kentucky.

The affidavit also stated that an undercover officer at a venue in Clay County got information from the operators, Millard Oscar Hubbard and Timothy Sizemore, ultimately leading to the cockfighting venue near Whitesburg.

Police also gained access to a schedule indicating there are 38 fight dates scheduled between November 6, 2021, and July 30, 2022. When an undercover officer went to a fight on Feb. 5, 2022, it cost 25 USD to get in and there were around 400 people at the venue.

More than 70 individuals or teams had entered roosters to fight, each of them paying an entry of 600 USD for six roosters, and competed for a pot of 45,600 USD. According to Bryson’s statement, spectators gambled on the fights.

The court record stated that a fight on Feb. 26, 2022, had more than 80 roosters entering matches and about 200 spectators in attendance before police broke up the operation.

Five others were indicated with Baker, namely Virgil G. Saylor, Tina M. Miller, Henry Locke, Brandon Honeycutt, and Chris Prater. In his plea, Baker said that he hired Saylor and Miller, who were from Georgia, to organize and run the fights. Honeycutt has filed a motion to plead guilty, while the others are scheduled for trial in February.