RAEFORD, N.C. — Dozens of people appeared in a Hoke County courtroom Wednesday to answer charges that they were involved in cockfighting.
Investigators said the incidents occurred on a Sunday in June. Officers said more than 100 people, including parents and children, spent the day watching roosters kill one another. Authorities said when they arrived at the end of the day, more than a dozen birds were dead or dying.
"Our forefathers did it. George Washington did it. All of them did it. It has been a tradition in America since the beginning of time," defendant Richard Chance said. "It would be something different if I were caught doing this. If I was actually there fighting the chickens or if they had caught someone fighting the chickens, I don't mind it. I would say, 'Yes, I'm guilty of it.' But when you are not fighting them and they did not catch anybody fighting them, how can you be guilty?"
"They just took all of our names and told us that we had to come to court," defendant Lynda Jacobs said.
Many of the defendants pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor acts. Those individuals have received a suspended sentence, unsupervised probation and a $150 fine. Those that did not plead guilty will appear in court in October.
Cockfighting is illegal in all but three states. However, it is only considered a felony in half of those states. If convicted in North Carolina, defendants face fines and up to six months in jail.
According to the Animal Protection Institute, it is also illegal to watch cockfights in 33 states. There is no penalty for being a spectator in North Carolina.