The seventh and final member of an Alabama family that prosecutors allege ran an “expansive cockfighting operation” complete with “stadium-style seating for approximately 150 people” and a “merchandise stand,” has been sentenced on federal charges.
On Tuesday, George Easterling, 56, of Verbena, was handed a 22-month prison term followed by one year of supervised release after pleading guilty to multiple felonies, including violating the Animal Welfare Act’s prohibition against animal fighting, according to the Justice Department.
Prosecutors say Easterling and six other family members, ranging in age from 25 to 77, were recently involved in operating a cockfighting pit and fighting-bird breeding operation.
“According to court documents and information in the public record, from at least January 2018 through June 11, 2021, illegal cockfighting events were held at the cockfighting pit, which consisted of an arena with stadium-style seating for approximately 150 people which faced several cockfighting pits and several nearby outbuildings including a merchandise stand,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Participants were charged expensive fees to enter their birds in the derbies – such as $1,500 to fight seven roosters – and told what weapons to strap to the roosters’ legs, such as short knives, long knives or spurs,” it added.
Prosecutors say that near the cockfighting pit, “members of the Easterling family ran two large fighting-bird breeding businesses known as Swift Creek Gamefarm and L&L Gamefarm at which thousands of birds were bred and sold to be used in fights between two or more birds for the purposes of sport, wagering or entertainment.”
“Combined, the seven convicted members of the Easterling family helped run one of the largest cockfighting enterprises in the country,” the Justice Department said. “With the help of six of his family members, Jim Easterling owned and operated the cockfighting pit for many years, even enlisting his granddaughter, Amber Easterling, to sell weapons used to kill birds in cockfights at the merchandise stand.”
The statement also described Brent Easterling as being “one of the most widely-known fighting-bird breeders in the country, running L&L Gamefarm with his wife Kassi Easterling and charging $1,500 for three chickens because they were birds of select fighting pedigrees.”
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said, “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.”
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