[C]ourt records filed in Harris County show that -- even though much of the dog fighting was caught on videotape and witnessed by law enforcement officers -- prosecutors doled out light sentences because, in most instances, the defendants were spectators, and were not witnessed entering dogs in fights. (Participants in dog fights can face up to two years in prison; spectators can get a year in jail and a $4,000 fine).Well I guess we'll chalk that one up as a FAIL. And we can toss it on the pile of 187 dog carcasses left to rot in a landfill after Houston SPCA killed them without even having them evaluated.
But in some of those cases, even defendants who officers witnessed entering dogs into fights had their charges dropped -- like William Stanforth, who was indicted on three charges of felony dog fighting, only to have two charges dismissed and receive deferred adjudication for the third. And then there's Albert Ramirez, who a grand jury said "unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly cause a dog to fight with another dog" in October 2008, and whose case was dismissed a month later.
Others who were sentenced to time in Harris County Jail were allowed to serve during off-work hours; some of those who were charged were never even arrested. Some had criminal records, like a man who was sentenced to 20 days for being a spectator, and who had previous convictions of assault of a family member, felony weapon possession, burglary of a vehicle, and auto theft.
On March 6, 2009, Darrick Ford was convicted on two separate charges of misdemeanor dog fighting -- he was a spectator -- and received a two day sentence for each. He also received a two-day credit for each. So things worked out well for Ford.
Ford got off much easier than Urias Contreras, who was sentenced to four whole days on one charge. Contreras was originally charged with felony dog fighting -- meaning he actually caused one dog to fight with another -- but the prosecutor lowered the charge to a misdemeanor.
[Animal Cruelty Prosecutor Belinda] Smith, who called the 2008 sting the biggest undercover operation in the country, has been vocal about her determination to bring dog fighters to justice. [emphasis added]
Someone remind me what was the whole point of this 17 month investigation and bust. Because it obviously wasn't to prosecute dogfighters or save the victims of the abuse. From where I stand, it seems like the main objective was to kill a bunch of dogs. Success! Congratulations Harris County. You must be so proud.