published Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

3 more plead guilty in Alabama dog fighting case

By PHILLIP RAWLS

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Three more people pleaded guilty today in a multi-state dog fighting investigation, including a Texas man who acknowledged winning $35,000 at one fight in Alabama.

Demontt Allen of Houston pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge today in Montgomery, along with Lawrence Watford of Adel, Ga., and William Antone Edwards of Brantley, Ala.

Conspiracy carries a sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000. No sentencing date was set. With today's pleas, seven people have now pleaded guilty in what federal prosecutor Clark Morris calls "a horrendous case" and three more have filed court papers saying they want to plead guilty.

Investigators who worked on the case say people were paying $100 to $150 per person to attend high-stakes dog fights in east Alabama between 2009 and 2013.

Allen, 38, admitted in court that he brought a dog from Texas to participate in a fight near Auburn in August 2011. He said he later got stopped by police with $35,000 in cash that he acknowledged winning at the fight.

"It just goes to show you how much money people were wagering on these dog fights. Thousands of dollars were bet on each dog," Morris said.

Watford, 35, admitted training dogs in Cook County, Ga., and bringing one to a fight in Waverly on Dec. 3, 2011. He got stopped by police in the state line town of Phenix City the next day with an injured dog that he acknowledged using in the fight in Waverly.

Edwards, 42, acknowledged training dogs in Covington County in south Alabama for use in fights in Lee County east Alabama.

Animal welfare groups helped local and federal investigators during their probe and have cared for more than 400 dogs seized from the defendants last year.

Stacy Wolf, senior vice president for the Anti-Cruelty Group of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the organization is pleased some of the defendants are pleading guilty and being held accountable.

"Dog fighting is a despicable crime, and we hope that the other defendants take responsibility for subjecting these dogs to a life of pain and suffering," she said in a statement.

Four more defendants have filed court papers saying they want to plead guilty. Two others have applied for a pre-trial diversion program, one is scheduled for trial in July, and one is awaiting arraignment.

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