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U.S. attorney’s office details two major CSRA cockfighting investigations

Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 11:34 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - U.S. Attorneys detailed two major animal cruelty investigations during a Monday afternoon news conference.

First, they spoke of an indictment against a man who was charged in a cockfighting ring that was busted up in December.

Lincoln County investigators raided a farm on Dec. 14, 2019 and charged Lanier Hightower with numerous charges related to the ring.

Hightower was charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor. He was also charged with conducting an illegal gambling operation. Thirty-seven others were also slammed with similar felonies.

But the Hightower case wasn’t the only investigation discussed during the 2 p.m. news conference.

U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine said another operation, known as Operation Sunrise, was conducted in Emanuel County on Saturday at Sunset Farms.

Christine said dozens of state and federal officials raided the farm as over 200 spectators stood by in a “festive atmosphere “complete with a concession stand, Sunset Farms ball caps and T-shirts for sale, and stadium-style seating in a large arena.”

“When the fight started Saturday morning, more than 150 federal, state, and local law enforcement agents converged on the site,” Christine said. “Identifying 178 individuals involved in putting on or attending the illegal event, and took custody of nearly 800 birds and fighting paraphernalia tens of thousands of dollars in suspected gambling proceeds firearms and an amount of drugs.”

Christine said the farm’s owner, William Shannon Scott, is charged with sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture.

“This investigation is that its early stages, but as it continues, we expect other felony and misdemeanor charges against other individuals who participated in and attended Saturday’s event,” Christine said.

Christine said he and his office would not tolerate such events from happening in the area, and promised to deliver justice to those who would operate them.

“We absolutely will not tolerate these bloody celebrations of violence that victimize animals for the sick thrill of spectators and for the lust of money garnered illegally,” Christine said.

Both cases remain under investigation.

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