Two cockfighting suspects plead down to misdemeanors and fined

Mora and Garcia were fined in connection with a Howard County cockfighting bust.
Mora and Garcia were fined in connection with a Howard County cockfighting bust.(Hall County Detention Center)
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 2:04 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 at 4:33 PM CST
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ST. PAUL, Neb. (KSNB) - Two of the suspects arrested in a Howard County cockfighting bust have been fined for related misdemeanors. The misdemeanor convictions are lesser charges than the original felony counts against both men.

Victor Mora of Grand Island and Gustavo Renteria Garcia of Palmer both pleaded no contest to ownership or possession of animal fight paraphernalia. Each was convicted and fined $500 Wednesday in Howard County Court.

A probable cause hearing scheduled Wednesday for Eduardo Alcantar of Grand Island was postponed to April 5.

Mora, Garcia and Alcantar were among 10 men arrested Dec. 17 at a rural location about 15 miles north of Grand Island.

Howard County Sheriff Tom Busch said deputies received a 911 call about illegal gambling activity involving roosters in rural Howard County and investigated the report, along with Nebraska Games and Parks officers. A search warrant was obtained for the property.

He said deputies found seven roosters, one of which later died from injuries during one of the fights. He said the roosters were taken to an off-site location, where they will be cared for until the court cases are over and they get guidance on what’s to be done with them.

Seven other suspects remain charged with felony cockfighting. Under Nebraska law a conviction on that charge carries max penalties of three years in prison and 18 months probation or a $10,000 fine, or both.

Martin Montelongo and Ernest Ceballos Lopez of Grand Island, Ruben Meza Puentes of Wood River and Angel Gutierrez of Chapman are scheduled in Howard County District Court for arraignment March 24.

At an arraignment hearing, a suspect typically enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the cases advance to trial, it would be held in district court.

The other three suspects, Jose Reyes Jimenez, Jorge Rodriguez, and Jesus Serrano Sanchez, all of Grand Island, and Alcantar, have evidence hearings scheduled April 5.

State statutes define cockfighting to include promoting, working at or witnessing a cock fight. The crime also includes animals being made to fight each other, which can include dogs, chickens and bearbaiting. According to online dictionary definitions, bearbaiting is the practice of one or more dogs attacking a chained bear.