Last Of Defendants Convicted In Pensacola-Based Dogfighting Investigation
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – A federal jury in Pensacola, Florida, convicted Shane Patrick Sprague, 35, of Pensacola, Florida, of felony conspiracy to violate the dogfighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Co-defendants James "Tommy" Peek, 67, and Haley Cook Murph, 24, both of Milton, Florida, and David Lee Moser, 36, of Waynesboro, Tennessee, had previously pleaded guilty to seven federal felonies for their involvement with Sprague and others in a dogfighting operation centered in Pensacola. The jury acquitted co-defendant Derek Jedidiah Golson, 38, also of Pensacola.
Evidence at trial, along with admissions made by the pleading defendants in conjunction with their plea agreements, established that Sprague operated C Wood Kennels, a dogfighting operation that arranged dogfights and trafficked in fighting dogs with Moser and others outside of Florida. Moser admitted that he and Sprague agreed to fight their dogs against one another and to prepare a dog for a dogfight, and that they had discussed concealing evidence that one of Moser’s dogs had killed another dog.
Murph pleaded guilty to unlawfully conspiring with the co-defendants to violate the dogfighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, traveling to Steele, Alabama, to purchase a fighting dog from a known dogfighter, and possessing that dog for purposes of using the dog in an animal fighting venture. Peek pleaded guilty to unlawfully conspiring with the co-defendants to violate the dogfighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, delivering a dog to defendant Sprague for purposes of having the dog participate in an animal fighting venture, and possessing a dog for purposes of having the dog participate in an animal fighting venture. Moser pleaded guilty to conspiring with the co-defendants to violate the dogfighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Each of the eight counts of conviction in the case carries a maximum of five years in prison and a criminal fine of up to $250,000.
Peek was one of the sources of supply of fighting dogs to C Wood Kennels. He admitted to having sold dogs to Sprague, believing that the dogs would be used for fighting purposes. He also admitted to having sold a dog to an undercover agent after making representations about the fighting "bloodlines" as well as prior and upcoming dogfights of some of the dogs on his yard.
Murph’s role was that of a makeshift "veterinarian" for C Wood Kennels. Although Murph at no time possessed a veterinary license, she admitted to offering and performing veterinary and surgical procedures on dogs belonging to members of the conspiracy, including by treating dogs injured in a dogfight and by surgically removing dogs’ ears, including for the purpose of dogfighting. Two dogs in her "care" died from their fighting injuries. Murph also admitted to supplying a "bait" animal to test the fighting abilities of one of the co-defendant’s dogs. Finally, Murph admitted to traveling to Alabama on two occasions to receive dogs from a known dogfighter, and to keeping one of the dogs for herself for the purposes of having the dog participate in an animal fighting venture.
"These barbaric acts of animal cruelty have no place in a civilized society, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue and prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law," said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida. "Societies are measured in part by how well they treat their domestic animals, and these defendants failed that test miserably – and now will pay the consequences."
"The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms and gambling," said Special Agent-in-Charge Jason M. Williams of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General. "Together with the Department of Justice, animal fighting is an investigative priority for USDA-OIG, and we will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who participate in animal fighting ventures."
Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Love and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy prosecuted the case. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.