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Swainsboro man sentenced in cockfighting case
Wendell Allan Strickland
Wendell Allan Strickland

An Emanuel County man sentenced to prison in federal court in Statesboro Wednesday after admitting to operating a cockfighting venue.

Wendell Allan Strickland of Swainsboro was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture; two counts of Conducting an Illegal Gambling Business; and one count of Possession and Transport of an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture, all felonies; and one misdemeanor charge of Attending an Animal Fighting Venture, said acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall also ordered Strickland to pay a fine of $10,000 and a special assessment of $525, and to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“Voyeuristic cruelty to animals is not a sport – it is a barbaric anachronism,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to identify, infiltrate and eliminate these pockets of cultural depravity from the Southern District.”

As described in court documents and testimony, Strickland, 67, operated a cockfighting venue called The Red Barn on his Swainsboro property. Multiple law enforcement agencies raided the site in September 2020, seizing cockfighting gear and arresting Strickland and other participants.

“The unconscionable abuse exhibited by this individual resulted in his own loss of freedom,” said Jason Williams, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General.  “Our agency and law enforcement partners will be unwavering in our pursuit of individuals who find entertainment value in this repulsive activity.”

Two other owners of cockfighting venues pled guilty to similar charges. Lanier Augusta Hightower Jr., 65, of Lincolnton, Ga., previously was sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined $500, while sentencing has not yet been set for William Shannon Scott, 48, of Midville, Ga.

The investigation into animal fighting operations in the Southern District, led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General (USDA-OIG) and in cooperation with multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, determined that cockfights were held at Strickland’s venue, called The Red Barn, on alternating weekend schedules with those at Little Sunset, a larger venue Scott owned and operated in nearby Midville.

The U.S. Government is initiating forfeiture proceedings for Strickland’s property where the cockfights were held. Both Scott and Hightower also face forfeiture of their farms as part of their sentences.

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