Man pleads guilty in rooster case

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Will spend 4 months in jail

By Tom Wilmoth

A 63-year-old Coleman Falls man pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting animal fighting, specifically roosters, in Bedford County Circuit Court Tuesday.

    Avery Fitzgerald will serve four months of a 12-month sentence in jail as part of the plea agreement. In addition, he won’t be able to purchase any more companion animals or roosters for two years. He is to report to jail on July 10.

    As part of the plea agreement, Fitzgerald will be able to serve the time on weekends. Fitzgerald stated in court Tuesday that he helps take care of a 94-year-old neighbor and this would allow him to continue to do that. He said a relative could check in on the woman during the weekends.

    Fitzgerald was arrested in December for selling roosters on two different occasions to undercover investigators with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office. The BCSO also confiscated about 50 roosters from Fitzgerald’s property. He was charged with two felony counts of aiding, abetting or promoting  animal fights,  specifically roosters, but one charge was reduced to the misdemeanor as part of the plea agreement and the other charge wasn’t prosecuted.

    During a preliminary hearing in Bedford County General District Court earlier this year, two witnesses testified about the alleged buys of roosters: the investigator heading up the case, Ross Sheets, and his informant. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Mark Robinette said at that hearing that the informant testified to meeting with Fitzgerald several times and purchasing roosters for $100 each. He said it was noted that those purchases were for fighting purposes.

    Robinette said a subsequent search of the property turned up equipment associated with rooster fighting, including a fighting pit on the property. Fitzgerald has said he used to fight roosters, but had not done so for several years. Robinette said this week that Fitzgerald had not understood that selling the roosters was still against the law.

    The roosters were forfeited to the county, following a civil hearing in January, and were held at the Bedford County Animal Shelter.

    Homes for some of the roosters confiscated were found and others were euthanized. As part of the plea agreement, Fitzgerald will have to pay restitution for the money the county spent to house the roosters. That amount was not set at Tuesday’s hearing, but will be filed with the court within the next 21 days. Fitzgerald retains the option to dispute the charges should he think they are out of line.