MOUNT STERLING — The manager of and the corporation that owns a Montgomery County arena that allegedly was the host of a cockfighting event in the spring have been indicted on gambling-related charges.
Richard Joseph Abshire faces one to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to promote gambling, the most serious charge of the three-count indictment.
The indictment says Abshire and Bubab LLC, the Louisiana company that owns Bayou Springs Club in Jeffersonville, south of Mount Sterling, "knowingly conspired with unknown and/or unnamed conspirators to advance or profit from gambling activities" by charging a fee to enter the property where the club "was engaged in and/or operating an active cockfighting operation."
Abshire, who lives in Louisiana, was not arrested but was to be served a criminal summons, said Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Keen Johnson. Abshire is scheduled to be arraigned in Montgomery Circuit Court on July 24.
"We don't want anything operated that's illegal," Johnson said.
Abshire declined to comment on the indictment, but he had harsh criticism for the Humane Society of the United States, which conducted an undercover investigation of Bayou Springs.
"They're ruining businesses and ruining people's lives," he said.
John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, called the indictment "a positive development." But he said Kentucky needs to make cockfighting a felony.
In cockfights, roosters fight with sharp knives or with spurs that look like ice picks, called gaffs, fastened to their legs. The weapons are used to scratch, cut, maim or kill their opponents.
Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and is a felony offense in 39, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
"The legislature is going to have to pass a stronger cockfighting law if we're going to eradicate this behavior," Goodwin said.
Additionally, Abshire and Bubab LLC were charged with promoting gambling in the second degree because Abshire "knowingly advanced or profited from unlawful gambling activity" at Bayou Springs. That charge is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
A third count of the indictment, returned last week by a Montgomery County grand jury, accuses Abshire of permitting gambling because he "was aware" that the Bayou Springs Club premises "were being used to advance gambling activity," and he failed to stop or try to stop it. That count is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
The indictment was the result of an undercover investigation by Kentucky State Police. Lt. Merrell Harrison of the Morehead post said the investigation was independent and separate from another conducted by investigators for the Humane Society of the United States, who entered the Jeffersonville arena in late May.
"We didn't know they were there," Harrison said Tuesday.
The Humane Society investigators said they each paid a $20 admission fee to an event billed as the "World Championship."
Once inside, they secretly recorded video of specially bred roosters fighting each other inside rings while dozens of spectators watched. Abshire, 35, faces gambling-related charges in Louisiana after state police in March raided Little Bayou Club in Sulphur. That raid was the first since Louisiana's cockfighting law went into effect in 2008.
Bayou Springs was formerly known as Spring Brook Farm.
In April 2005, Kentucky State Police raided Spring Brook, charged the owners with running a criminal syndicate, and cited 507 spectators with animal cruelty. A Montgomery District Court judge threw out the charges against the spectators, saying the animal-cruelty law was unclear.
Bubab LLC bought the Jeffersonville arena and surrounding buildings in November for $550,000, according to a deed in the Montgomery County Clerk's office. The deed lists Abshire as Bubab's president.
Jeffersonville Mayor Anthony Henderson says cockfighting has been around for centuries and it will continue.
"That's just like the moonshiners that make moonshine," Henderson said. "They may bust a few, but they'll never stop it. It's a tradition that's all over the world. They'll probably stop the big rings that are more open and vocal about it."