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Press Release

Wise County Man Pleads Guilty to Having Minor Attend a Cockfight and Other Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – A Pound, Virginia man, pled guilty to three felony charges earlier this week, including allowing a minor to be present at a cockfight, distribution of hydrocodone, and conspiring to facilitate cockfighting.

Russell D. Peaks, 40, of Wise County, Virginia, pled guilty earlier this week in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon for his role in cockfighting at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club “Big Blue” in McDowell, Kentucky.

“Cockfighting is not only a brutal and barbaric act, it is also illegal in this country,” United States Attorney Fishwick said today. “We are proud those involved in this investigation have held Mr. Peaks, and others, responsible for operating the Big Blue cockfighting club and for subjecting minors to this type of violence.”

According to evidence presented at previous hearings, Peaks raised fighting roosters at his home in the Pound, Virginia, area.  He then took those birds to fight at Big Blue in McDowell, Kentucky.  Peaks also fought birds in the Pound area.  On one such occasion, Peaks allowed a minor to attend the fight.   In 2014, Congress made it a felony to allow a minor to attend an animal fighting venture, which includes cockfighting.  Peaks also sold hydrocodone to an undercover officer.

Five individuals previously convicted for their role at Big Blue were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 6 to 18 months.  Another defendant, Jimmy Crate Willis, has signed a plea agreement and intends to plead guilty in the near future.  The two remaining defendants are scheduled for trial at the Federal Courthouse in Big Stone Gap on December 12, 2016.

Peaks sentencing has been scheduled for January 30, 2016, in Abingdon.

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 February 27, 2024

Animal Welfare