published Friday, May 2nd, 2014

10th defendant pleads guilty in dog fighting

By PHILLIP RAWLS

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A south Alabama man became the 10th person to plead guilty in a multi-state dog fighting investigation when he admitted raising and training pit bulls for high-stakes fights.

Irkis Forrest, 32, of Theodore appeared in federal court in Montgomery today to plead guilty to conspiracy. Nine others from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas pleaded guilty in court hearings earlier this week in Montgomery.

Forrest admitted he raised and trained pit bulls for fighting and took them to matches organized by Donnie Anderson in the Auburn area between 2009 and 2013. He also admitted betting on the dogs. Anderson pleaded guilty Wednesday and acknowledged organizing fights where thousands of dollars in bets changed hands.

Federal investigators raided several sites in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi last August and seized more than 400 dogs. They reported finding 41 that Forrest had.

U.S. Magistrate Charles Coody asked Forrest if he knew what he was doing was illegal.

"I knew it was against the law, but I didn't know it was a felony or a federal offense," he said.

Conspiracy to participate in animal fighting carries a federal prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000. No sentencing date has been set for any of the defendants.

Federal, state and local officers arrested 15 people in the investigation. In addition to the 10 who have pleaded guilty, one other has filed notice he wants to plead guilty, one is awaiting trial in July, two are seeking admission into a pre-trial diversion program, and one who was arrested recently in Georgia is just starting to have his case go through the court system.

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