Huntington man convicted for cockfighting agrees to five years of probation

Huntington man convicted for cockfighting agrees to five years of probation
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - About two months after an Angelina County jury found him guilty of engaging in organized criminal activity and participating in earnings of a cock fight, a Huntington man accepted an agreed sentence deal of five years of probation and a $1,000 fine.

Defense attorney Al Charanza said Burl Jones, his client, appeared in court Wednesday. As part of the deal, Jones agreed to waive his appeal. In addition, the case against his wife will be dismissed.

Charanza said that plea deal agreements have been made with the other people he represents among the 17 suspects that were arrested for being part of a cockfighting operation back in April of 2015.

According to a previous East Texas News story, 17 people were arrested in connection to the alleged cockfighting operation. After the Angelina County Sheriff's Office received a citizen complaint, they conducted a two-week investigation and obtained a search warrant.

ACSO deputies collaborated with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, and the FBI to execute the search warrant.

Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches said at the time all 17 of the people arrested in connection to the raid were going to be charged with cockfighting, which is a state-jail felony.

Justice of the Peace Esther Barger ruled in May of 2015 the evidence was overwhelming that the birds were mistreated and that they will be seized by Dallas County District Attorney Art Munoz and his office. She also ruled Burl Jones, the respondent who attended the hearing and who was linked to the birds, must pay $11,000 in restitution.

Melanie Wade, the animal cruelty officer for the sheriff's office, said they received a call on April 16 from a concerned citizen about possible cockfighting. She said after she contacted her superiors at the sheriff's office, she got in touch with DPS and a Dallas County District Attorney office that specializes in animal cruelty cases.

During her testimony, Wade explained that she went in with the "second wave" of the raid on the alleged cockfighting operation. She told the judge that she saw a dying rooster with a broken leg and several cocks in pens. She also said the smell from the urine and feces was "ungodly."

In addition Wade testified that she saw blood and feathers inside a pit as if birds had just been fighting. Plus, Wade observed gaffs, or items put on birds' legs during cockfights.

Paul Bickerstaff, an investigator with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office, said that the warrant they obtained included animal seizure. He testified that they had an undercover DPS surveillance team take pictures and videos of the residence at 224 Clark Rd. in Huntington where the alleged cockfighting operation was based.

Bickerstaff said that he heard cheering and yelling. The ACSO investigator said have photographic evidence of the house, pit, the metal cylinder where the dead chickens were burned, blood, and the gaffs and slashers used in chicken fighting. In addition, Bickerstaff said he found gambling ledgers and $6,000 in cash.

When the law enforcement officers arrived on the scene, people scattered, Bickerstaff said. He said one man ran with chickens in his hand.

Lt. Pete Maskunas, ACSO's then-supervisor of criminal investigation, said they used aerial photos from a DPS aircraft to get the license plate numbers from the vehicles parked at the house on Clark Road. Then on the next day, they ran those plates and went to each respective residence, where they found evidence of gamecock birds being raised, Maskunas said.

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