Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Dogfighting Conspiracy

Published 7:38 am Friday, July 14, 2023

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A Louisiana man – Antonio Damon Atkins, 35, of Baton Rouge – pleaded guilty today for his part in a conspiracy to sponsor, exhibit, possess and transport animals in an interstate animal fighting venture, and to possessing an animal in such a venture, all in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

To date, six other defendants have been convicted for their participation in the interstate dogfighting ring. The ring was originally uncovered through an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.

Five of the defendants have already been sentenced, receiving the following for their dogfighting convictions:

  • Eric “EZ” Williams, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 60 months’ imprisonment
  • Corey Brown, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 50 months’ imprisonment
  • Clay Turner, Loranger, Louisiana: 36 months’ imprisonment
  • Dangelo Dontae Cornish, Greensburg, Louisiana: 16 months’ imprisonment
  • Aquintas Kantrell Singleton, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 12 months and one day’s imprisonment

A sixth, David Guidry III, of Independence, Louisiana, is scheduled to be sentenced on September 6, 2023.

“Dog fighting is a crime that cruelly forces animals into a cycle of violence and death for personal gratification or profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are committed to aggressively pursuing and prosecuting anyone who engages in such blood sport.”

“No one has the right to torture any creature on this earth,” said Douglas A. Williams, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in New Orleans. “The FBI thanks its partners in this case for their steadfast work to hold Mr. Atkins accountable. The FBI is dedicated to protecting the American people, and in this case, victims who could not defend themselves against abject cruelty.”

“Individuals who support and facilitate the cold-hearted practice of dog fighting will face serious consequences for their actions,” said Dax Roberson, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General.  “We appreciate the commitment of our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who support the appalling abuse of these animals.”

According to court documents, in 2017, Atkins conspired with others to keep, breed, train and fight pitbull dogs. On telephone calls obtained via court-authorized wiretaps, Atkins and his co-conspirators discussed many facets of their plans. They discussed preparation (“When I get back, I’m going to . . . look at her [i.e., put her in a practice fight] one more time and then I’m going to match her.”) and the kinds of dogs they wanted to acquire (“We need one of them bitches that eats the face off.”). Other recorded conversations addressed using “rape boxes” to restrain female dogs for breeding, drowning unsellable puppies, performances by prized dogs that fought even after suffering fatal injuries, and bets of thousands of dollars on fight results.

Several times, Atkins and his co-conspirators met to gamble on the outcome of dog fights, including at a co-conspirator’s property in Independence, Louisiana. When dogs suffered injuries during training or fights, Atkins and his co-conspirators performed do-it-yourself veterinary care to avoid the attention that professional veterinary care might bring.

The conspirators maintained several properties in furtherance of their dogfighting operation. In August and October 2017, agents from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal and local law enforcement partners executed search warrants at seven properties. The agents found pitbull dogs and dogfighting paraphernalia at each. In total, 89 pitbulls – including puppies – were seized and received appropriate medical care for their injuries and medical issues. Many of these dogs were rehabilitated and adopted.

At Atkins’s property, agents found and seized fourteen pitbull dogs and puppies, many of which bore scars and wounds consistent with dogfighting. They also found dogfighting paraphernalia, including veterinary medications and supplements, dog collars, heavy chains, a training device known as a “flirt pole,” dogfighting magazines and dog pedigree records bearing Aktins’s name and the names of others. Atkins’s documents showed that he had been breeding, selling and purchasing dogfighting dogs since 2002.

Atkins pleaded guilty to two counts: (1) conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act to sponsor and exhibit animals in an animal fighting venture and to possess and transport animals for purposes of participation in an animal fighting venture; and (2) violating the Animal Welfare Act by possessing an animal in an animal fighting venture. Atkins faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $500,000 fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trial Attorney Matthew D. Evans of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lyman E. Thornton III and Jeremy Johnson of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case. The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.