The texts seemed friendly: “Can we play today?” and “Are we playing with the girls today?” The dogs’ names included Cookie Monster and Katie.
Instead, the texts between men were confirmation of details related to a multistate illegal dogfighting network.
Four men from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. have pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting and conspiracy counts — one man brought his 7-year-old son to watch a fight in which one dog died.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Odell Anderson, Sr., 52, of D.C., Emmanuel Powe, Sr., 46, of Frederick, Maryland, Chester Moody, Jr., 46, of Glenn Dale, Maryland, and Carlos Harvey, 46, of King George, Virginia, each pleaded guilty in federal court in Richmond to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the animal-fighting prohibitions of the Animal Welfare Act.
In addition, Anderson pleaded guilty to the felony of causing a child under the age of 16 to attend an animal-fighting venture.
According to charging documents, from April 2013 through July 2018, the men were involved in training, transporting, breeding and orchestrating dogfighting events in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
In April 2016, Anderson, Powe and Harvey met up with others in a Walmart parking lot, in King George, Virginia, then traveled to a nearby house for a “two-card” dogfighting event, which featured more than one dogfight.
Prosecutors said that night, with his young child in tow, Anderson’s male pit bull-type dog, “Cookie Monster,” fought and won a fight that lasted 41 minutes. Another dog died of his injuries.
The defendants were each found to have fighting dogs at their homes, as well as equipment, including treadmills, weighted collars, heavy chains, “Bark Stop” machines and collars, and training sticks, according to Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Each animal-fighting charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. The charge against Anderson for taking a minor to a dogfight has a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The federal judge will determine each man’s sentence, during an Oct. 6 sentencing, in Richmond.