Owner of Swainsboro cockfighting venue faces 2 years in prison

Crime & Safety

A judge’s gavel is shown in a file photo. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) — The owner of a cockfighting venue was sentenced Monday to more than two years in prison, according to a federal court in the Southern District of Georgia.

Wendell Strickland, 67, was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to multiple felonies and one misdemeanor, said Acting U.S. Attorney, David H. Estes. Police raided Strickland’s cockfighting venue at his Swainsboro property called The Red Barn in September 2020. Police seized gear and arrested Strickland and others, according to Estes.

“Voyeuristic cruelty to animals is not a sport — it is a barbaric anachronism,” Estes said. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to identify, infiltrate and eliminate these pockets of cultural depravity from the Southern District.”

Strickland pleaded guilty to the following:

  • Two counts of sponsoring and exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture
  • Two counts of conducting an illegal gambling business
  • One count of possession and transport of an animal in an animal fighting venture
  • One misdemeanor charge of attending an animal fighting venture

Strickland also must pay a $10,000 fine, a special assessment of $525 and serve three years of supervised release, Estes said.

William Scott, 48, and Lanier Hightower Jr., 65, pleaded guilty to similar charges. Cockfights were held at both Strickland and Scott’s venue on alternating weekend schedules, Estes said. Hightower Jr. was sentenced to 14 months in prison and Scott awaits sentencing.

Police raided Scott’s property in June 2020. He pleaded guilty to sponsoring and exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture.

Hightower Jr. pleaded guilty to the same charge after a December 2019 raid on his farm. All three face forfeiture of their properties, Estes says.

“The unconscionable abuse exhibited by this individual resulted in his own loss of freedom,” said Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General, Jason Williams. “Our agency and law enforcement partners will be unwavering in our pursuit of individuals who find entertainment value in this repulsive activity.”

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