Owner of third Georgia cockfighting venue sentenced to federal prison

Crime & Safety

STATESBORO, Ga. (WRBL) — A Georgia man was sentenced to 16 months in prison for operating a cockfighting venue in Emmanuel County.

William Shannon Scott, 49, pleaded guilty to Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture.

After admitting to the scheme, Scott was sentenced to more than one year in prison, ordered to pay a $2,500 fine, to forfeit the land where the fights were housed, and serve two years of supervised release after his prison term. In addition to this, Scott is prohibited from owning birds or fowl ever again.

Two other individuals are serving federal prison terms for similar charges. Wendell Allan Strickland, 67, of Swainsboro, Ga., and Lanier Augustus Hightower, 65, of Lincolnton, Ga., Strickland and Hightower owned two other venues.

“William Shannon Scott’s sentencing represents the final trip to court for three men who operated illegal animal fighting venues in the Southern District of Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “Thanks to outstanding work from our law enforcement partners, we have shut down these three animal cruelty arenas — and it should serve as a warning to those who would attempt to engage in this reprehensible practice.” 

According to court documents, Scott’s cockfighting venue in Midville, Ga. was called Little Sunset. Scott would alternate hosting fights with Strickland on his venue in Emanuel County, The Red Barn.

Scott was arrested in June 2020 in Operation Sunrise, a multi-agency operation that raided a cockfighting tournament on his property. Almost 200 possible defendants were also identified during the raid.

Only six months prior to Scott’s arrest, Hightower was arrested on his farm in Lincoln County during the first of three raids starting in Dec. 2019.

“These callous showcases of death are no longer in operation, thanks to our law enforcement partnerships,” said Jason Williams, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General. “This agency has made animal fighting a high priority in order to demonstrate that these inhumane acts of cruelty to animals will not be tolerated.”

More than $200,000 in cash from illegal betting, knives, and gaffs affixed to the animals during the fights were seized during these operations. The U.S. Government has also started forfeiture proceedings for the properties on which these tournaments were held on.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the man was sentenced to life in prison instead of 16 months.

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