By The Associated Press
PORT GIBSON — Most of the 16 people indicted in Claiborne County after a raid on a major dogfight last year have pleaded guilty and been sentenced.
Many of the defendants admitted being spectators on Nov. 20 when sheriff’s deputies and other law officers invaded the fight.
One person pleaded guilty to sponsoring, promoting, staging or conducting a dogfight. Charges will be dropped against one of the defendants, District Attorney Alexander Martin told The Clairon-Ledger.
Martin said he was satisfied with the outcome. Staging a dogfight carries up to three years in prison and a $5,000. Watching a dogfight can result in a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Initially, 27 people were arrested and 13 pit bulls were seized. The animals have been euthanized. Also, some vehicles were seized, but later returned to their owners, Sheriff Frank Davis said. Davis said seizing vehicles helped authorities in identifying spectators..
“There were people who had to make some hard core choices,” Davis said. “They had to make the choice of whether to leave their vehicles with us or whether they were to come and turn themselves in and claim their vehicles.”
Mississippi Animal Rescue League Director Debra Boswell said authorities don’t have to catch offenders in the act of fighting dogs to charge them. Injured animals and other signs of dog fighting can be used as evidence of a fight, she said.
“It’s extremely hard to catch one in progress,” Boswell said.
Of the defendants, Bryan K. Eggleston, of Port Gibson, pleaded guilty to sponsoring, promoting, staging or conduction a dogfight. He was put on a year of probation and fined $5,000. Those who pleaded guilty to being spectators were fined $3,500 to $5,000 and either put on probation or put into a pretrial diversion program allowing their record to be erased.