Deputies with the St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office busted up a suspected cockfighting operation on Father's Day Weekend, citing 18 people and arresting one of them on a slew of guns and drug charges.

Acting on recent reports of the illegal activity, officers say they noticed suspicious activity happening in the 2300 block of Main Highway in Cecilia. Saturday night around 7 PM, deputies say they found these people conducting cockfights in a wooded area near that section of Main Highway.

The 18 individuals were detained and cited on the following charges:

  • 14:102.23 Cockfighting
  • 14:102.1 Cruelty to Animals
William Francis, photo submitted by St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office
William Francis, photo submitted by St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office
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One of the 18 subjects - 35-year-old William Francis, Jr. of Youngsville - was also arrested on the following additional charges:

  • 40:966A1 Possession with Intent to Distribute Schedule 1 (2 counts)
  • 40:967A Manufacture; Distribution: Possession with Intent to Distribute Schedule II Narcotics (1 count)
  • 14:59E Possession of a Firearm Committing/Attempt Crime (1 count)
  • 14:95.1 Possession of a Firearm/Concealed by a Convicted Felon (1 count)
  • 40:102C Prohibited Acts-Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (1 count)
Evidence, photo submitted by St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office
Evidence, photo submitted by St. Martin Parish Sheriff's Office
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Francis was booked into the St. Martin Parish Correctional Center.

The other 17 individuals were released on a citation.

The investigation continues.

Cockfighting is a very profitable yet illegal undertaking. As you can see in the news report below, it's a billion dollar industry in the Phillipines. But, it's a deadly one!

According to Fox8 Live, Louisiana was the last state in the U.S. to ban cockfighting in a bill signed by Governor Kathleen Blanco. But it wasn't until Bobby Jindal came along that lawmakers finally gave anti-cockfighting legislation more teeth in the state in 2014.

According to law.justia.com, individuals caught in the cockfighting industry could face the following punishment:

D.(1) Whoever violates the provisions of this Section, on conviction of a first offense, shall be fined not less than seven hundred fifty dollars, nor more than two thousand dollars, or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not less than six months nor more than one year, or both. In addition to any other penalty imposed, on a conviction of a first offense, the offender shall be ordered to perform fifteen eight-hour days of court-approved community service. The community service requirement shall not be suspended.

 

(2) On a conviction of a second offense, the offender shall be fined not less than one thousand dollars, nor more than two thousand dollars, and shall be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not less than one year nor more than three years. At least six months of the sentence imposed shall be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

In Louisiana, a first offense is only considered a misdemeanor, though, according to nola.com. That differs from 33 other states that will charge an individual with a felony on a first offense instead of a second offense like Louisiana. But, the feds involvement in trying to stop cockfighting has sought to make it tougher on violaters.

"There has been a double whammy for cockfighting in Louisiana, " said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues with the Humane Society of the United States, to nola.com. He went on to say "the federal government upped the penalties." Those increased penalties include a maximum of five years and a $250,000 fine for importing or exporting birds, transporting them across state lines or using interstate commerce to sell supplies related to cockfighting, according to nola.com.

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