ROGERSVILLE — Six of the seven men cited in January after being caught at a Hawkins County cockfight pleaded guilty Monday to being spectators while a seventh man was found guilty following a short trial.
All seven were fined $50, which is the maximum fine for the Class C misdemeanor charge.
Tennessee code annotated has two potential charges related to cockfighting including the Class A misdemeanor, which is for participating, and the Class C misdemeanor, which is for being a spectator.
Assistant Attorney General Alex Pearson said there was no evidence presented that any of the seven men were actually participating as rooster owners or handlers.
On the afternoon of Jan. 19, Hawkins County deputies responded to a tip that there were about 50 people present at a cockfight taking place on Poor Valley Road near the intersection of Price Road north of Rogersville.
By the time the tip came in, however, the event was apparently over. Only a handful of people were present when deputies arrived, and as officers rolled in, several people reportedly darted into the woods.
Among those people who ran into the woods was Matthew Wayne Miller, 40, 1220 Lloyds Chapel Road, Mount Carmel, who was the only defendant who chose to go to trial Monday before Sessions Judge J. Todd Ross.
Miller testified that he’d gone to the Poor Valley Road location with some friends for the purpose of selling chickens and he wasn’t aware that a cockfighting event was taking place.
Miller testified that when the deputies converged on the area, he thought it was a drug raid. Miller said he didn’t have drugs, but fled because he “didn’t want no part of that.”
Ross found Miller guilty of the Class C misdemeanor cockfighting spectator charge.
The other six who pleaded guilty to the spectator charge included:
• Ricky Gene Hatley, 44, of Bean Station.
• Joseph Eugene Mills Jr., 36, of Blaine.
• Steven Ray Wilson, 20, of Knoxville.
• Matthew David Walker, 22, of Knoxville.
• Craig Robert Helton, 42, 197 Poor Valley Road, Rogersville.
• Larry Steven Helton, 38, 117 Race Track Road, Rogersville.
HCSO Detective Chris Price, who was the charging officer, told the Times-News in January that based on statements he received from some defendants the cockfight raided Jan. 19 is an ongoing event that takes place regularly at multiple venues.
When deputies arrived on the scene Jan. 19, they found a pickup parked off the roadway. In the bed of the pickup, deputies found eight dead roosters in a garbage bag.
On the property, deputies found a large shelter with three walls and a roof that contained several crates with live roosters inside, as well as a big square stall littered with feathers apparently used as a fighting ring.
“There was also a trophy in there that had a big gold rooster on it,” Price said. “The trophy said, ‘Gobbler’s Knob 2013’, and it was sitting up in the corner, so I guess that was the grand prize.”