Guilty pleas filed in Eastern Ky cockfighting case

Lexington, Ky.–Two defendants have admitted, in federal plea agreements filed within the past week, to running a Nicholas County cockfighting ring. According to court records, Walter H. Mitchell and Linda A. McVey pled guilty to the federal charge of “Conspiracy to Violate Laws by Sponsoring & Exhibiting Animals in an Animal Fighting Venture.” Another defendant in the cases is scheduled for rearraignment next month.

According to court records, Mitchell owned the property, called “the Valley” by some, where the weekly cockfights occurred. The Valley was located on the border of Nicholas and Fleming County, about an hour’s drive from Lexington.

The Valley venue consisted of stadium style seating, storage areas for storing live birds, an enclosed cock-fighting pit, a concession stand, an area for sharpening animal fighting instruments, two areas for weighing birds, an area for selling animal fighting accessories, and additional side pits for fights, according to the indictment.

Records also say the conspirators collected admission fees, and sold concessions and merchandise, to dozens of individuals who participated in and attended the animal fighting events. Additionally, they maintained security at the animal fighting events.

Throughout the conspiracy, the Defendants operated weekly animal fighting ventures at the Valley that routinely drew participants from Kentucky and other states.

At the fights, another defendant allegedly organized the participants into various fights, cataloging the entry fees, the weight of the roosters, tracking the weapons used on the animals, arranging the fights, and tracking the wins and losses of the various participants. McVey admitted she sold concessions and merchandise at the fights. Mitchell admitted to working the fights and cleaning the pits after the fights. They also hired referees, kitchen staff, and security personnel.

On June 25, 2021, there was a fight managed by the Defendants including at least a dozen entries in a 4-cock fight, and approximately 150 attendees. On July 30, 2021 they organized a fight including at least a dozen entries in a 5-cock fight, with approximately 100 attendees.

McVey and Mitchell will be sentenced next year. The other defendant in the case, Jerrard D. McVey, is scheduled to be back in court December 8, 2022.