Four Howard Co. cockfighting suspects in court

ST. PAUL, Neb. (Nebraska) – Four of the 10 suspects arrested for cockfighting in December are headed to court.

Grand Island’s Martin Montelongo and Ernest Ceballos Lopez, Wood River’s Ruben Meza Puentes and Chapman’s Angel Gutierrez each opted out of evidence hearings in the Howard County Courthouse. A judge then transferred the four cases to the Howard County District Court for prosecution on March 24.

In an arraignment hearing, a suspect typically pleads guilty or not guilty. If the cases go to trial, it will be held in district court.

The other six suspects, Eduardo Alcantar, Jose Reyes Jimenez, Jorge Rodriguez, Jesus Serrano Sanchez and Victor Mora, all of Grand Island, and Gustavo Renteria Garcia of Palmer, all have hearings scheduled for March or April.

Each of the ten suspects is charged with cockfighting, which is a felony. Under Nebraska law, there are maximum sentences of three years in prison and 18 months of probation or a $10,000 fine, or both.

State statutes define cockfighting to include promotion, work, or witnessing a cockfight. Crime also includes animals forced to fight each other, which can include dogs, chickens and bear baiting. According to online dictionary definitions, bearbaiting is the practice of one or more dogs attacking a chained bear.

The Howard County Sheriff arrested the 10 men on December 17 in a rural location about 15 miles north of Grand Island.

Howard County Sheriff Tom Busch said deputies received a 911 call about illegal gambling activity involving roosters in rural Howard County and investigated the report, along with Nebraska Games and Parks officials. A search warrant was obtained for the property.

He said MPs found seven roosters, one of which later died from wounds sustained during one of the fights. He said the roosters were being taken to an offsite location, where they will be cared for until the court cases are finished and given guidance on what to do with them.

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