Columbia Man Convicted on Federal Dog Fighting Charge
Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Santerrio Montinez Smith, age 32, of Columbia, was convicted by a federal jury on a dog fighting charge after a day-and-a-half long trial before United States District Judge Mary G. Lewis. The jury took just two hours to find Smith guilty. This was Smith’s second federal conviction this year; in August, he was convicted after trial for distributing and conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin.
Smith was convicted of Buying, Possessing, Training, Transporting, and Receiving Animals for Purposes of Having the Animals Participate in an Animal Fighting Venture. He faces a maximum possible penalty of 5 years in prison for his conviction.
During the trial, the government called seven witnesses to establish that, between March and September 2017, Smith possessed pit bull terriers for the purpose of fighting the dogs. The evidence presented in court showed that Smith, who already had a 2014 state conviction for dog fighting, kept his fighting dogs at his grandmother’s house on Dubard Boyle Road in Richland County. On September 20, 2017, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Columbia Violent Gang Task Force (CVGTF), with assistance from the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), executed a search warrant at the residence on Dubard Boyle Road and seized eight pit bull-type dogs. Forensic veterinarian Dr. Cathy Anderson, DVM, examined the dogs and testified that two of the dogs had both scarring and fresh wounds indicative of the dogs having participated in organized dog fighting.
The jury heard testimony from Terry Mills, the Director of Blood Sports Investigations at the ASPCA, who educated them about the underworld of organized dog fighting. Mills, a former law enforcement officer with the Missouri Highway Patrol, testified that he had spent 18 months working undercover in a massive multi-state dog fighting investigation. During that time, he had essentially lived the life of a dog fighter. He described in detail the horrific treatment that dogs are forced to endure to become fighters, as well as what happens when a dog loses a fight. According to Mills, “the losing dog rarely leaves the building.”
Government attorneys then played a dozen recorded phone calls involving Santerrio Smith, his brother Dantrell Smith, their father James “Denny” Green, and other known dog fighters, discussing the dogs and different aspects of dog fighting. During one call, Santerrio Smith and another dog fighter made arrangements for an upcoming fight.
Both Dantrell Smith and James Green have pleaded guilty to federal dog fighting charges. Santerrio Smith, Dantrell Smith, and Green will be sentenced after the court has received and reviewed a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.
Although dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, it continues to occur in every part of the country and in every type of community. ASPCA experts estimate that there are tens of thousands of dog fighters across the country forcing hundreds of thousands of dogs to train, fight, and suffer for the entertainment and profit of spectators as part of this brutal “blood sport.” In the past nine years, the ASPCA has assisted with approximately 200 dog fighting cases in at least 24 states, and it has impacted through rescue, consultations, and investigations nearly 5,000 victims of dog fighting.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s CVGTF, which is comprised of law enforcement officers from the FBI, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Columbia Police Department (CPD), Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD), Lexington County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD), Lexington Police Department (LPD), and the South Carolina National Guard. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jane B. Taylor and Christopher D. Taylor.