7th member of Alabama family sentenced for massive cockfighting operation
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The U.S. Department of Justice says a seventh and final member of a central Alabama family has been sentenced after being convicted for running one of the largest illegal cockfighting businesses in the United States.
The court found that the level of illegal conduct by multiple members of the Easterling family, all of Verbena, involved animal fighting on an “exceptional scale.”
Each was convicted for their role in “an expansive cockfighting operation” that violated the Animal Welfare Act, with the DOJ adding that the sentences were given “to reflect the unusual cruelty of a business model that relies on the death or injury of thousands of birds for entertainment and profit.”
Four of the defendants were sentenced in the last week after pleading guilty in August. The other three defendants pleaded guilty in June and were sentenced in October.
- George William “Billy” Easterling, 56 - Sentenced to 22 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.
- Brent Colon Easterling, 38 - Sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release
- William “Tyler” Easterling, 30 - Sentenced to 20 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.
- William Colon “Jim” Easterling, 77 - Sentenced to 24 months of home detention — rather than incarceration which the court determined would be “extremely detrimental” to his declining health, and a fine of $8,000.
- Kassi Brook Easterling, 39 - Sentenced to 24 months of probation, including six months of home detention.
- Amber Nicole Easterling, 25 - Sentenced to one year of probation.
- Thomas Glyn “Junior” Williams, 34 - Sentenced to one year of probation.
The DOJ said that court documents and information in the public record found that from at least the start of 2018 through mid-2021, illegal cockfighting events were held at a cockfighting pit that consisted of an arena with stadium-style seating for about 150 people. The seats faced several cockfighting pits and several nearby outbuildings, which also included a merchandise stand.
During the illegal animal fights, participants were charged expensive fees to enter their birds in the derbies – such as $1,500 to fight seven roosters – and were told what weapons to strap to the roosters’ legs, such as short knives, long knives or spurs, the DOJ explained.
Near the cockfighting pit, members of the Easterling family also ran two large fighting-bird breeding businesses known as Swift Creek Gamefarm and L&L Gamefarm where thousands of birds were bred and sold to be used in illegal fights, the DOJ asserted.
The DOJ stated that with the help of six of his family members, Jim Easterling owned and operated the cockfighting pit for many years and even brought his granddaughter, Amber Easterling, into the business where she would sell weapons used to kill birds in cockfights at the merchandise stand.
The DOJ further laid out the roles of other family members, noting that Brent Easterling was one of the most widely-known fighting-bird breeders in the country, running L&L Gamefarm with his wife Kassi Easterling. They were said to be charging $1,500 for three chickens because they were birds of select fighting pedigrees. He also promoted the cockfights at the cockfighting pit owned by his father, Jim Easterling.
Tyler Easterling helped his father, Billy Easterling, operate a vast fighting-bird breeding business known as Swift Creek Gamefarm where they employed their in-law, Junior Williams, and others to help maintain and ship fighting birds. He also promoted several cockfights at the cockfighting pit owned by his grandfather, Jim Easterling.
“These sentences demonstrate the importance of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act to ensure the humane treatment of animals and prohibit cruel practices such as cockfighting,” said United States Attorney Sandra Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama.
“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,” added Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“Every cockfighter in the United States should pay attention to what has happened to an Alabama family that was knee-deep in the enterprise of cockfighting,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “These cockfighters have lost their assets and their freedom. That’s the potential fate of anyone involved in the barbaric practice of staged animal fighting. We thank the Department of Justice and other federal law enforcement actors for advocating for treating these crimes with the seriousness they deserve.”
As part of his plea agreement, William Colon Easterling dismantled and destroyed the entire cockfighting arena and associated outbuildings, the DOJ confirmed.
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