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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Monday, November 28, 2016

Clintwood Man Pleads Guilty to Cockfighting Charge

Jimmy Willis Sponsored Animals to Fight at Big Blue “Sportsmen’s Club”

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – A Virginia man, who sponsored animals during cockfights at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky, was the seventh person convicted of federal charges related to his criminal conduct as part of the larger cockfighting conspiracy, United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. announced today.

Jimmy Crate Willis, 78, of Clintwood, Virginia, pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to knowingly sponsor and exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture.

“The practice of cockfighting is not only illegally under federal law but it is a violent, heinous and brutal act of cruelty for these animals,” United States Attorney Fishwick said today. “We are proud those involved in this investigation have held responsible those who raised and fought these animals and shut down this venue for such brutal and barbaric acts.”

Five defendants who have already been sentenced for their roles at Big Blue were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 6 to 18 months. Another defendant, Russell Peaks, of Pound, pled guilty earlier this month and will be sentenced on January 30, 2017.  Two remaining defendants are scheduled for trial in Big Stone Gap in April 2017.

Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer and Special Assistant United States Attorney/Virginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch are prosecuting these cases on behalf of the United States. The case is being investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau of Law Enforcement, and the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.  In addition, the following agencies assisted in the arrests or related proceedings: Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force; Virginia State Police Tactical Team; Southwest Virginia Regional Task Force; Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; Wise County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; Virginia State Veterinarian’s Office; United States Homeland Security Investigations; Kentucky State Police; the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky; and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Updated November 28, 2016