In a significant development, a Louisiana man named Antonio Damon Atkins has pled guilty to his involvement in a conspiracy related to dogfighting. This comes after the conviction of six other defendants who were also part of the animal fighting venture. The investigation into this cruel activity was initiated by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The guilty pleas of the defendants shed light on the disturbing acts committed, such as breeding, training, and fighting pitbull dogs, as well as participating in high-stakes gambling on the outcomes of the fights. The conviction sends a strong message that the justice system will not tolerate such acts of violence and abuse against animals.
Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Dogfighting Conspiracy
Antonio Damon Atkins, a Louisiana man, has pleaded guilty to being part of a dogfighting conspiracy. Atkins is one of seven defendants involved in the animal fighting venture, all of whom have faced legal consequences. The case was initially uncovered through an investigation by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). Atkins and his co-conspirators were involved in various aspects of the dogfighting venture, including breeding, training, and fighting pitbull dogs. Law enforcement agents executed search warrants at multiple properties, resulting in the seizure of dogs and dogfighting paraphernalia. Atkins now faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Dogfighting is a cruel and illegal activity that involves training dogs to fight each other for entertainment or gambling purposes. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) prohibits animal fighting ventures and carries severe penalties for individuals involved in such activities. The AWA aims to protect animals from harm and ensure their welfare.
Defendants Involved in the Animal Fighting Venture Have Already Been Convicted
In addition to Antonio Damon Atkins, there were six other defendants involved in the dogfighting conspiracy. All six have already been convicted and sentenced for their participation in the interstate dogfighting ring. The sentences included imprisonment ranging from 12 months and one day to 60 months, depending on the level of involvement and severity of the offenses committed.
Statement from Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim emphasized the cruelty associated with dogfighting and the need to aggressively pursue and prosecute individuals involved in such blood sports. Dogfighting is considered a crime that forces animals into a cycle of violence and death, solely for personal gratification or financial gain. The Justice Department remains committed to holding those responsible for these acts accountable.
Statement from FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams
FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams expressed gratitude to the law enforcement partners involved in the case and their unwavering dedication to protecting the American people. Williams recognized the severity of the animal cruelty associated with dogfighting and the inability of the victims, the animals, to defend themselves against such abject cruelty. The FBI is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all individuals, including vulnerable animals.
Statement from USDA-Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Dax Roberson
Special Agent in Charge Dax Roberson of the USDA-Office of Inspector General highlighted the serious consequences individuals face when supporting or facilitating the practice of dogfighting. He commended the commitment of law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting those involved in the appalling abuse of animals. The USDA-Office of Inspector General remains dedicated to upholding the law and protecting the welfare of animals.
Details of Antonio Damon Atkins’ Guilty Plea
According to court documents, Antonio Damon Atkins conspired with others to keep, breed, train, and fight pitbull dogs. Wiretapped telephone conversations between Atkins and his co-conspirators revealed discussions about various aspects of their plans, such as obtaining specific types of dogs and engaging in gambling on dog fights. Atkins and his co-conspirators also discussed using “rape boxes” for breeding and performed do-it-yourself veterinary care to avoid attracting the attention of professionals. Law enforcement agents seized 14 pitbull dogs and puppies, along with dogfighting paraphernalia, at Atkins’ property.
Seizure of Dogs and Dogfighting Paraphernalia
As part of the investigation, law enforcement agents executed search warrants at seven properties connected to the dogfighting operation. These warrants led to the seizure of a total of 89 pitbull dogs, including puppies, all of whom received appropriate medical care for their injuries and medical issues. Many of the seized dogs were able to undergo rehabilitation and find new homes through adoption. At Antonio Damon Atkins’ property, agents discovered dogfighting paraphernalia, including medications, supplements, dog collars, heavy chains, a “flirt pole” training device, magazines dedicated to dogfighting, and pedigree records showing Atkins’ involvement in breeding and selling dogfighting dogs since 2002.
Charges and Potential Penalties
Antonio Damon Atkins pleaded guilty to two counts. The first count involves conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act by sponsoring and exhibiting animals in an animal fighting venture, as well as possessing and transporting animals for the purpose of participating in such a venture. The second count relates to violating the Animal Welfare Act by possessing an animal involved in an animal fighting venture. The maximum penalty for these charges is ten years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The final sentencing decision will be made by a federal district court judge, who will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case against Antonio Damon Atkins is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Matthew D. Evans from the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lyman E. Thornton III and Jeremy Johnson from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana.
The investigation into the dogfighting conspiracy was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both agencies played a crucial role in uncovering the criminal activities and gathering evidence against the defendants. Their collaboration highlights the importance of interagency cooperation in tackling crimes related to animal cruelty and ensuring the enforcement of laws protecting animals.