By MARK FREEMAN
Eight men caught at an Eagle Point cockfight in June are being sentenced to probation under plea agreements that treat the felony charge of participating in cockfighting as a misdemeanor.
Three of the defendants pleaded guilty Monday, bringing to seven the number of cases adjudicated following the discovery of a cockfight at a Willamette Egg Farms warehouse off Highway 62.
The eighth defendant is scheduled to plead guilty next month in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Assistant District Attorney David Hoppe agreed to the deals in part because the men — ranging in age from 19 to 78 — did not join the estimated 30 others who fled when police arrived. They accepted responsibility for taking part in the crime and did not insist on a jury trial.
The men, all Hispanic, did not try in court to justify their participation in what Oregon law considers a felony.
“Though it may be legal where they come from, it’s not legal here,” Hoppe said. “There is no cultural defense to cockfighting.
“In the end, this is an animal abuse situation,” Hoppe said. “That’s why just being at a cockfight is a crime.”
Alberto Rincon Martinez, 57, of Phoenix, Rafael Ramirez, 19, of Medford, and Felipe Reyes-Garza, 78, pleaded guilty Monday and were sentenced to 11 months bench probation, court records show. They also were ordered to have no contact with Willamette Egg Farms and cannot possess any live fowl, court records show.
Similar sentences already have been handed down to three other defendants in the case: Raudel Rubalcaba, 63, of Medford, Pedro Garcia of Dorris, Calif., and Victor Ramon Ulloa, 29, of Klamath Falls.
The stiffest sentence went to Leonel Sanchez, 26, of White City, a Willamette Egg Farms employee accused by police of opening the building to the cockfight. Along with the 11 months of probation, Sanchez agreed at his Sept. 25 sentencing to $950 in fines, attorneys’ fees and assessments, court records show. He was fired from his job shortly after his arrest.
Alberto Martinez Jr., 21, of Phoenix, is scheduled to plead in the case Feb. 12, court records show.
Jackson County sheriff’s deputies were called to the Willamette Egg Farms distribution site June 23 for a report of people seen trespassing on the property.
Deputies found evidence that at least one cockfight had occurred in the warehouse, and a dead rooster was found in an adjacent field, deputies said.
The location included a covered fighting arena with lights powered by a generator, as well as a makeshift bar where alcohol was sold, deputies said.
Deputies found razors, which are fastened to the roosters’ legs to inflict damage during a fight. Approximately 35 roosters were seized and later released to an animal caretaker.
Willamette Egg Farms officials have said the property is a distribution center and no chickens are kept there.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.