3 Guilty pleas expected in dogfighting case - KMOV.com

3 Guilty pleas expected in dogfighting case

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- At least three eastern Missouri men arrested in a multistate federal crackdown on illegal dogfighting are expected to plead guilty next week in federal court.

Documents filed in the case and interviews with the men's attorneys confirmed that Robert Hackman, 55, of Foley; Teddy Kiriakidis, 50, of Leasburg; and Ronald Creach, 34, of Leslie will plead guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

Co-defendant Michael Morgan, 38, of Hannibal is set for trial Monday in the same court. His attorney did not respond to phone inquiries about whether he also planned to plead.

A grand jury indicted the four, along with Jack Ruppel, 35, of Eldon, on dogfighting conspiracy and other charges this summer in St. Louis. Ruppel pleaded guilty Sept. 4 in federal court in Jefferson City to a conspiracy charge and to selling an animal for a fighting venture. His attorney, Timothy Cisar, said Ruppel pleaded guilty "because he is guilty."

A sentencing date has not been set.

Twenty-six people were charged and more than 500 dogs, some of them pregnant, were seized in July following federal raids in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas.

U.S. attorneys in several states accused them of cruelties that included shooting dogs in the head when they didn't fight well. None of the other cases have advanced to trials or guilty pleas.

Meanwhile, the task of caring for the dogs has fallen to groups such as the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis. That group alone has more than 400 dogs confiscated in Missouri and Illinois and about 100 puppies born since the raids, spokeswoman Jeane Jae said.

Federal judges overseeing separate, civil forfeiture proceedings will determine who has rightful claims to the confiscated dogs. They'll also consider the recommendations of animal behavior experts on whether the dogs are suitable for adoption.

Rick Hihath, 55, of St. Joseph, another man charged following the July raids, has filed a claim with the court, saying five of his pet bulldogs should not have been confiscated.

Twelve dogs confiscated in raids in Texas and Oklahoma have been given up by their owners, avoiding forfeiture proceedings in those cases, said Richard Moore, an assistant U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Texas. They ended up temporarily at a small shelter in Claremore, Okla.

"Just because they're not a favorite breed doesn't mean they don't deserve a fair process," animal control supervisor Jennifer Cummings said. "All they wanted was your affection."

Eight of the dogs were placed in homes or with rescue groups, but four with medical or behavior problems were later euthanized, according to Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls, in Oakland, Calif., which helped evaluate them.

Dogfighting has come under renewed scrutiny since NFL star Michael Vick was convicted and served prison time for running a dogfighting ring.

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback is now working with the Humane Society of the United States to stop organized animal fighting.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Powered by Frankly