Of the 32 people arrested after a cockfighting ring was busted in Cass County in November, 21 have taken misdemeanor plea deals.
Cass County Attorney Colin Palm said Tuesday that he offered the defendants the option to plead guilty to one of four potential misdemeanor charges. Most chose a charge of cruelly neglecting animals. They were sentenced to jail time served and a $500 fine, which is what Palm recommended to the judge.
The defendants, 30 men and two women between the ages of 20 and 67, initially were booked into jail on a felony charge of being a spectator at cockfighting, which carried a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Palm said the plea deals were fair based on the evidence authorities had.
“The plea offer really reflects the facts of specifically what we could prove what they did,” Palm said. “We felt like them pleading guilty, fined and spending some time in jail is still a significant consequence.”
Some of the defendants also face immigration violations, Palm said, though he didn’t know exactly how many.
Authorities arrested the group in November at a farm near Louisville, Nebraska, and confiscated 186 roosters. Eleven roosters were found dead and one had to be euthanized at the farm. The Nebraska Humane Society found homes for some of the birds, but others had to be euthanized. Palm said it was the first cockfighting case in Cass County, although he said there have been other across the state.
The cases of the 11 people who didn’t take plea deals are pending, Palm said.
“I think this was a rare event,” he said. “It is a law violation, certainly. If this comes up again, it’ll be prosecuted criminally just like it was at this time. We hope that the consequence that these defendants got will dissuade them from taking part or being a spectator.”