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Roosters turned over to county at hearing

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By Tom Wilmoth

    A Bedford County man facing charges for selling roosters for cockfighting will have to post a bond of $8,000 if he hopes to get the 40 birds confiscated from his property back.

    During a civil hearing Tuesday in General District Court, Judge Harold Black ruled that there was probable cause that the roosters were being used for cockfighting and therefore should be forfeited into Bedford County’s care. The roosters have been held at the Bedford County Animal Shelter since Avery Fitzgerald of Coleman Falls was arrested Dec. 22 for allegedly selling roosters on two different occasions for cockfighting.

    Fitzgerald appeared in court Monday without an attorney and prior to the civil hearing was advised by Black that he should hire an attorney by his next court appearance on the criminal charges set for Jan. 22. Black also told Fitzgerald he had a fifth amendment right to remain silent and not incriminate himself by anything he might say during Monday’s hearing. But Fitzgerald did question witnesses on his own behalf during the civil hearing and stated that he had not been involved in cockfighting at the time leading up to his arrest.

    Bedford County Attorney Carl Boggess called several witnesses during the hearing, including a Bedford County Sheriff’s Office undercover investigator and Scott Polinek, operations manager with the Bedford County Animal Shelter.

    The investigator testified that he had made two separate purchases of roosters for cockfighting from Fitzgerald, buying four roosters on one occasion and three on another. Also during one of the purchases it was alleged that Fitzgerald gave investigators a rooster and two hens for breeding. The investigator also testified that during a search of the property a fighting pit was discovered, along with metal spurs.

    On several occasions during the investigator’s testimony, Fitzgerald interrupted him and challenged the witness adding once, “You know that’s not true.” Fitzgerald also challenged whether he had actually consented to allow investigators to search his property.

    Fitzgerald stated during the hearing that he hadn’t fought the roosters and that the number he owned had dropped from 350 to 48. After bond was set on the roosters, Fitzgerald said he didn’t want them back.

     Polinek testified as to the cost of the county taking care of the roosters and a sheet outlining the costs was presented during the hearing. That was used as Black set the bond at $8,000 if Fitzgerald wanted to get any of them back and he added that it could be divided up as $200 per chicken, should Fitzgerald decide he wanted some of them back, but not all.

    Polinek said the shelter staff have been using old cat cages covered by a tarp to house the roosters outside, but plans are to purchase a shed so that they can be moved indoors.