James Jay Fricchione Publisher of underground dogfighting magazine charged with animal cruelty - 18 pit bulls seized

Westtown, NY

Orange County

April 23, 2003
James Jay Fricchione and John "Jack" Kelly using their publication to promote dogfighting

Belle Vernon, PA

Fayette County

July 26, 2004

The publisher of an underground dogfighting magazine was charged with animal cruelty and dogfighting felonies, officials said.

  James Fricchione's home was raided by agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, police and animal handlers from the Humane Society of the United States.

Investigators found 18 pit bulls at the residence, about 55 miles northwest of New York City, most of which had signs of injuries consistent with those inflicted in dogfights, Orange County Assistant District Attorney Dave Hoovler said. Fricchione faces up to six years in prison if convicted of all counts.

Humane Society officials said Fricchione, 33, published the "Sporting Dog Journal," an underground magazine that networks known and suspected dogfighters.  Police also seized equipment used to train dogs to fight as well as other paraphernalia, Hoovler said.

Fricchione, who was released on $10,000. Police are also investigating dogfighting suspects in Virginia and Georgia in connection with Fricchione's arrest, Hoovler said.

Update 3/15/04:  The 34-year-old publisher of a dogfighting magazine was convicted of animal cruelty and dogfighting felonies, almost a year after 18 pit bulls were taken from his property.

Fricchione was found guilty by a judge of one dogfighting and four cruelty counts, as well as five misdemeanors. He publishes the bimonthly Sporting Dog Journal, with about 6,000 subscribers nationwide, from his home in Westtown, about 55 miles northwest of New York City.

Most of the 18 pit bulls had injuries like those inflicted in dog fights, prosecutor Dave Hoovler said. Police also seized equipment used to train fighting dogs.

Fricchione, who remains free on $10,000 bail, faces sentencing April 14, 2004 before Orange County Judge Nicholas DeRosa. Defense attorney Norman Shapiro said there are grounds for appeal.

Update 4/23/04:  Orange County Court Judge Nicholas DeRosa called convicted dog fighting promoter Fricchione a bundle of contradictions. The Westtown man loves his pit bulls, but allows them to tear each other to shreds. He moved upstate for tranquility, yet converted his back yard into a concentration camp for dogs. He adores his kids, yet he chained up vicious pit bulls just yards from their bedroom windows.  "I believe you got so wrapped up, you became numb and blind to the violence and the danger," DeRosa told Fricchione yesterday, comparing him to a drug addict.

DeRosa sentenced Fricchione, reputed to be the biggest promoter of dog fights east of the Mississippi, to 2-7 years in state prison and imposed a $5,000 fine. Fricchione is also prohibited from owning animals for the next 10 years.    Fricchione was convicted of one count of animal fighting, four counts of cruelty to animals and one count of tampering with evidence, felonies, along with five misdemeanor counts under state Agriculture and Markets Law.  Several of Fricchione's family members wept as the sentence was pronounced. Many had sent letters to DeRosa requesting leniency for Fricchione.

A presentence report recommended that Fricchione get prison time for each count based on his "cynical disregard for the care of dogs." Fricchione, who publishes the Sporting Dog Journal, said he purchased the bimonthly dog fighting magazine solely for extra income for his family.   He has a wife, a 2-year-old daughter and a 2-month-old son.  "I'm not this sadistic person ... ," Fricchione told DeRosa. "I beg of you to consider ... some other alternative to jail."

Fricchione's new lawyer, Jim Herkenham, retained recently to handle Fricchione's appeal efforts, argued that leniency should be considered because Fricchione's crimes didn't involve injury to human beings.  "[Fricchione] has been painted as a monster by certain humane society people," Herkenham said.

State police raided Fricchione's house in April 2003. They seized 18 pit bulls.  "The dogs were never a threat to anyone. It would be inhumane to kill those dogs," Fricchione said in court. But several of the dogs, who have been housed in various humane societies across the area since the raid, were put to sleep yesterday just hours after Fricchione's sentencing. David Hoovler, the prosecutor who handled the case, is asking Fricchione to pay about $40,000 – just a portion of what it cost to house several of his dogs during the past year.

Update 7/26/04: 

James Jay Fricchione, 34, of Westtown, NY, and John "Jack" Kelly, 80, of Jefferson, Ga., are both charged for their work on the Sporting Dog Journal an underground dog-fighting magazine they publish

The magazine has a paid circulation of about 10,000 nationally and internationally and was allegedly run by Kelly until he sold it to Fricchione in 2001.

The charges against them grew out of a grand jury investigation that resulted in the 2002 arrests of 6 people on dogfighting charges in Pennsylvania.

Attorney General Jerry Pappert said the bimonthly magazine is important because it contained information on clandestine dogfights, their results and advertisements for puppies, stud services and equipment - such as treadmills and break sticks used to separate fighting dogs.

But most importantly, Pappert said, the magazine bestowed champion status on dogs. That prize was recognized by the underground dogfighting public and enabled participants to raise the stakes for wagers, puppy and stud fees.

A grand jury investigation found some people bet as much as $10,000 on a single fight and the purse for a night of fighting could be as much as $50,000, Pappert said.

"Just as the American Kennel Club bestows the title of champion on show dogs, the Sporting Dog Journal would confer the title of champion upon a pitbull that won three fights and the journal could confer the title of grand champion on a dog that won five fights," Pappert said.

Even after Kelly sold the magazine to Fricchione, Kelly remained the man who authenticated the dogs' records and conferred their lucrative championship status upon them, Pappert said.

Fricchione and Kelly are both charged with 2 counts each of cruelty to animals and 1 count each of conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals. All the counts are felonies that carry penalties of up to $15,000 and seven years in prison.

The men were to be arrested by authorities; Kelly in Jefferson, GA and Fricchione in Westtown, NY.

Update 7/8/05:  A state appeals court yesterday upheld last year's conviction of a man who turned his Westtown home into an arena for canine gladiators. James Fricchione was sentenced to 2-7 years in state prison last year in Orange County Court, after he was convicted of animal cruelty and related charges. He was convicted of 6 felonies and 5 misdemeanors after a nonjury trial before Judge Nicholas DeRosa.

Fricchione contended that state police didn't give a judge enough reason to issue a search warrant for Fricchione's home last year. His lawyer, Jim Herkenham of Slate Hill, asked the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court to overturn the verdict, arguing that key evidence should have been suppressed because of the deficient search warrant.

The appeal was rejected unanimously by a panel of four appellate division justices.   They ordered Fricchione to return to County Court to surrender and serve his sentence. The date hasn't been set.

Fricchione was reputed to be such a prolific promoter of dogfighting that when he was convicted, prosecutor David Hoovler said, "To the dogfighting world, this is like taking down Al Capone."

Update 7/19/05:  He lost his appeal, and yesterday, in Orange County Court, James Fricchione lost his liberty.

Fricchione, 35, surrendered yesterday to begin serving a 2-7 year sentence for turning his Westtown home into an arena for dogfights.

Fricchione was being held at the Orange County Jail, pending transfer to a state prison. After he's paroled, he'll face similar charges in Pittsburgh.

Update 11/22/05:  Yesterday, in Goshen, New York, County Court Judge Nicholas DeRosa ordered convicted dogfighter James Fricchione to pay the Warwick Valley Humane Society more than $130,000 in restitution for the cost of caring for dogs seized from Fricchione by the New York State Police more than two years ago. The order was issued after lawyers for The Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Protection Foundation of Schenectady, and a broad coalition of animal shelters filed legal papers urging full restitution for the Warwick Valley Humane Society.

A restitution hearing was then held before Judge DeRosa on September 19, at which Assistant District Attorney David Hoovler asked that the court order full financial restitution to the shelters that cared for Fricchione's dogs during the adjudication of the case.

"The shelters that courageously assisted the law enforcement authorities by taking charge of the dogs seized in this case certainly deserve to be indemnified," said HSUS program coordinator Samantha Mullen. "They incurred enormous financial as well as emotional burdens. In addition, they were targets of burglary attempts because fighting dogs are notoriously coveted by criminals who know their worth in the underground world of blood sports."

James Fricchione, former publisher of Sporting Dog Journal, a magazine subscribed to by thousands of individuals suspected or convicted of dog fighting – some of whom received the publication at their prison addresses – is well known to dogfighters throughout the country and abroad.

Reference:

AR-News

ABC News

WNBC News

Times Herald-Record

HSUS