The seventh member of a Verbena, Ala., family was sentenced for taking part in what the Justice Department calls an “expansive” cockfighting operation. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The seventh member of a Verbena, Ala., family was sentenced for taking part in what the Justice Department calls an "expansive" cockfighting operation.
Members of the Easterling family were convicted for their roles in running a large-scale cockfighting ring and a fighting bird-breeding business. They were also charged for violating the Animal Welfare Act and operating an illegal gambling business.
The co-conspirators allegedly operated a cockfighting business from at least January 2018 to June 11, 2021. The cockfights took place in a small arena surrounded by "stadium-like" seating which could accommodate about 150 people. Merchandise stands were set up in nearby buildings on the same grounds.
"Combined, the seven convicted members of the Easterling family helped run one of the largest cockfighting enterprises in the country," a news release from the department reads.
During the fights, two or more roosters with razor blades attached to their legs would fight to serious injury or death. A person could enter a bird into the fights for an entry fee, which in some cases was a $1,500 charge. They would then be informed what weapons to attach to the bird's leg, which included short and long knives or spurs.
William Colon "Jim" Easterling, 77, owned and operated the cockfighting business for "many years." He enlisted the help of his family members, even his granddaughter Amber Easterling, 25. He was sentenced to two years of home detention and fined $8,000. He will serve his sentence at home because it was determined that incarceration would be "extremely detrimental" due to his declining health.
Amber Easterling was sentenced to a year of probation. Her role in the operation was selling weapons that were used in the cockfights at a merchandise stand.
George William "Billy" Easterling, 56; Brent Colon Easterling, 38; and William "Tyler" Easterling, 30, were sentenced to prison and subsequent supervised release.
Brent Easterling carries the longest sentence at two years. He is considered a widely known breeder of fighting birds at his farm L&L Gamefarm. He also helped his father, Jim, promote the fights. His wife, Kassi, 39, was sentenced to two years of probation, including six months of home detention.
George Easterling was sentenced Tuesday to 22 months, and his son William Easterling was sentenced to 20 months. They also operated a bird-breeding business, Swift Creek Gamefarm, which raised and transported fighting birds. Their in-law Thomas Glyn "Junior" Williams, 34, was employed at the farm. He was sentenced to a year of probation.
"As these sentences vividly show, the Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable those who encourage and profit from forcing animals to fight each other for human entertainment," said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Verbena, Ala., is a small unincorporated community north of Montgomery.