Authorities uncovered illegal cockfighting and gambling operations in Dorchester County, South Carolina. Seven men charged with illegal cockfighting operations appeared in federal court in Charleston. Cockfighting is prohibited in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.
Allegedly, according to a prosecutor, the seven individuals were the ringleaders of the operation. However, a magistrate judge allowed all seven to leave court on USD 10,000 unsecured bonds and cautioned them to remove their gamecocks out of South Carolina or else they would be penalized.
The seven individuals charged with engaging in animal fighting venture and illegal gambling operations are Roy Michael Limehouse, 65, of Ridgeville; Roosevelt Curry, 67, of North Augusta; Joey Leverane Brown Jr., 41, of Warrenville; Shannon Hubert Baxley, 49, of Barnwell; James Franklin Rountree, 51, of Barnwell; Jeremy Allen Bessinger, 40, of Fairfax; and Brandon Isaiah McLaughlin, 24, of Gloverville. All face an additional conspiracy count except McLaughlin and Baxley, who are also charged with lying to a federal law enforcement officer.
Thanks to a tipster, sheriff deputies of Dorchester County went to Limehouse’s property and busted the cockfighting operation. The tipster told the authorities to look for a South Carolina Gamecocks flag. A total of 32 people were arrested and charged at the state level with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to USD 1,000 or up to a year in jail. If convicted in a federal case, the defendants face up to five years in prison and must pay a fine of USD 250,000 for each charge.
1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said that federal investigators had been working with local authorities on the case early on in the investigation. “We appreciated them getting involved. One of the reasons is that our hands are tied with the lighter sentences under the state law,” he said, pertaining to the slim penalties under the state charge.
Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker said that aside from the federal charges, some of the seven alleged cockfighters also violated the terms of their state bond by keeping roosters on their properties. Those who have admitted to still having hundreds of gamecocks and roosters on their properties have up to 45 days to remove them, Magistrate Judge Baker ordered. Failing to comply with the terms of their bonds could result in the defendants being arrested, charged, and paying up to USD 10,000 bail.
Aside from the criminal penalties of the case, the seven individuals also face the forfeiture of any property that was previously used for cockfighting or purchased with the revenue from illegal events.