Owner of cockfighting venue sentenced to prison for orchestrating illegal animal fighting operation

Crime News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A Lincoln County man has been sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for operating a cockfighting venue.

65-year-old Lanier Augustus Hightower Jr. plead guilty to Sponsoring and Exhibiting an Animal in an Animal Fighting Venture said, said Acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes. Hightower was also ordered to pay a $500 fine and is prohibited from owning or keeping any birds, fowl or attending any events related to birds or cockfighting. He will also serve tow years of supervised release after completing his prison term.

“This sentence sends a strong message that animal fighting will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Georgia,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “In coordination with our law enforcement partners, we will target and eliminate these barbaric operations and hold the organizers and participants accountable.”

Hightower worked with others to sponsor a December 14, 2019 cockfight on his farm in Lincoln County. The federal indictment named Hightower and 38 other codefendants and remained sealed until June 2020 when multiple law enforcement agencies led a raid at the cockfighting venue called Little Sunset in Midville, Ga. It was operated by 48-year-old William Shannon Scott. Scott operated on an alternating schedule with another venue called The Red Barn, which is owned by 67-year-old Wendell Allan Strickland of Swainsboro, Ga.

Strickland and Scott have both pled guilty to charges related to the cockfights and await sentencing in U.S. District Court.

As a part of his plea deal, Hightower will forfeit 100.04 acres of land in Lincoln where the cockfights were held to the U.S. Government. Scott and Strickland will also face forfeiture of their farms as part of their sentences.

“The brutal practice of watching animals mutilate each other to death holds no entertainment value and will not be tolerated,” said Jason Williams, Special Agent in Charge, USDA-OIG.  “This prosecution should serve as notice that our agency, in conjunction with our state and federal partners, will hold these individuals accountable for their interest in this heinous blood sport.”

Hightower is ordered to report to prison November 8th, 2021.

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