LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - One of 17 people arrested in what the Angelina County Sheriff Office calls a cockfighting operation is on trial for the crime.
Burl Jones, 61, is charged with state-jail felonies engage in organized criminal activity and participating in earnings of a cockfight.
Jones was arrested in April 2015 after deputies said they seized cockfighting paraphernalia and more than 300 birds at a Huntington property.
Prosecutor Sandra Martin said in opening statements Monday that cockfighting has been illegal since 2011. She said it was the ex-wife of Jones' son, Ray Jones, who tipped off the sheriff's office, because their daughter was scared.
Defense attorney Albert Charanza said the woman's statement and her daughter's statement about the cockfighting is just hearsay. He said Jones had the cockfighting paraphernalia since before 2011 and just never got rid of it. He said Jones buys and sells roosters and does not use them for fighting.
Charanza said the evidence will show no cockfighting was going on.
"This case is based on a lie," he said. "No offense to the sheriff's office. They were called but it was inaccurate information. They failed to verify illegal activity was happening."
Charanza called the trial a "custody battle out of control."
During testimony, Angelina County Animal Control Officer Melanie Wade said Roy Jones' ex-wife sent her pictures of the roosters fighting. She explained the laceration on the bird's breast was consistent with a cockfighting injury.
Charanza said that out of 341 birds, only one was found dead and he asked if it is typical for three percent of chickens to die normally. Wade agreed. Charanza asked if it was possible for a dog to kill a chicken and Wade agreed.
Wade said Jones made comments to her that he has been "doing this" since he was 12 and that it was his right and heritage. He also said he wanted his paraphernalia back.
Wade said the sheriff's office did surveillance of the property after obtaining a search warrant. She also described photos of evidence, including some of drugs given to the birds to calm them down.
"It smelled horibble," Wade said. "Like they had burned so many chickens."
Roy Jones' daughter testified that she never witnessed cockfighting, but did take pictures used in evidence.
Roy Jones' ex-wife testified that her daughter was scared because of all the people coming and going from the property. She said her daughter told her a lot of people would come over on April 19 and that is when she told the sheriff's office.