Richard Warren Bohn

Richard Edward Wendell

Gina May Bohn

Francisco Larios

Aldo Naranjo Medina

Simon Azragoza Orozco

Marlin Lee Ford

Daniel Falcon Coyoca

14 others - Names not disclosed

Cockfighting - 800+ birds found, 22 people arrested

Fiddletown, CA

Amador County

May 15, 2005

  (Photo courtesy of the Ledger-Dispatch)  Amador County sheriff's officials raided a cockfight at a farm with a 10-foot-tall plastic chicken at the entrance, arresting 22 spectators, seizing 58 cocks prepared to fight and impounding about 750 more birds, the undersheriff said.

As sheriff's and animal control officers entered the 10-acre farm, 30 people fled to surrounding hills, and one man threw $4,000 in cash to the ground and was among those arrested on suspicion of viewing a cockfight, Undersheriff Karl Knobelauch said. Some of the 22 also were arrested on suspicion of possession of fighting cocks and possession of cockfighting implements.

Knobelauch said 58 cocks were found with metal slashers on their ankles, and officials confiscated six guns and several thousand dollars in cash.

Seven children were found at the farm; four were released to Amador County Child Protective Services after a parent had been arrested and no other guardian was immediately available.

The farm owner and operator, Richard Warren Bohn age 53, of Fiddletown, was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty , possession of fighting cocks and training fighting cocks. Knobelauch said 58 birds were removed from the property, and Bohn will be responsible for caring for the rest of the birds until a judge decides their fate.

Officials had been watching the rooster ranch, putting together a case for a search warrant that was executed by 12 agencies.

"The only activity was to raise roosters out there," Knobelauch said. "It's not unlawful to raise the roosters. Everyone knows where they are going - it's not going to Chicken McNuggets or anything."

Update 5/18/05:

  (Photo courtesy of the Ledger-Dispatch)  After at least a year’s worth of surveillance and investigation, Bohn has been arrested for allegedly operating a massive cockfighting ring during the service of a search warrant on his property in the 16000 block of Mt. Whitney Road outside of Fiddletown. He was charged with animal cruelty, possession of fighting cocks and training fighting cocks, all misdemeanors.

According to information released by the Amador County Sheriff’s Office, the original warrant for Bohn’s residence was secured in order to search for evidence of ongoing cockfighting, cockfighting paraphernalia and implements and evidence of animal cruelty.

“We have known for a couple of years that Mr. Bohn was running what he called a chicken ranch,” Amador County Undersheriff Karl Knobelauch said. “But he didn’t appear to have any poultry production operation.” Knobelauch added that Bohn’s neighbors tipped off the ACSO that cockfighting may have been going on at the residence.

Knobelauch said the warrant was served just prior to an alleged major cockfight occurring. He said between 55 and 60 people were at the residence. No additional fowl were injured due to the timing of the warrant’s execution.

“These animals were clearly prepared for fighting,” ACSO Capt. James Wegner said. “They were already weighed, were numbered and lined up in their fight sequences. They were set to fight.”

Once ACSO deputies and the county’s SWAT team served the warrant, 22 people were detained and subsequently arrested, while approximately 30 others fled into the surrounding hillsides. All those who were arrested have been charged with attending an animal fight and some were charged with possession of fighting cocks and possession of cockfighting implements, the ACSO said.

Upon conducting further searches of the scene 5 of the alleged cockfighting participants who fled were located. While these people were not arrested at the scene, charges are pending, the ACSO said.

Several other subjects were subsequently identified and additional arrests are expected in the ongoing investigation. Three of those individuals were arrested when they came to the sheriff’s office to pick up vehicles confiscated in the raid.

In addition, six firearms were seized during the raid - three of which were possessed by participants allegedly attending the cockfight.

  (Photo courtesy of the Ledger-Dispatch)  Several thousand dollars worth of cockfighting implements were located and seized as well, according to the ACSO. “These implements consisted of small metal knives - 1 1/2 inch to 3 inches in length - commonly referred to as slashers, which are affixed to the cock’s spurs to inflict greater trauma on the opposing fowl,” the ACSO reported. Wegner said some of these knives were found in Bohn’s house.

Additionally, several thousand dollars in cash was also seized, as was evidence of gambling. Attendees of the alleged fights told law enforcement they had been charged an admission fee as well.

Wegner said Bohn had an alleged fighting pit set up on the property that had lines marking the fighting area. “The actual pit is about 15 feet by 12 feet and is oval shaped,” he said. “There was blood on the sides of the pit walls. There were also two other pits that were not being used but had blood stains on the carpets that were covering them.”

The ACSO reported that approximately 800 fowl were located on the property, with 350 of those being fighting cocks. Approximately 58 fowl were seized and being prepared to fight and as a representative sample of those being confiscated. The remaining fighting cocks were seized and impounded on the property.

Wegner said the birds were left on the property because of the sheer number of them. “The animal control officers photograph, tag and document each fighting cock,” he said. “There are so many birds that we simply do not have the ability to humanely care for them. So they are impounded and Bohn has to care for them.” Wegner said that if any of the impounded birds get sick or die, Bohn must notify the ACSO and animal control. Animal control would then check the bird to ascertain why it was sick and if it is determined it was used for fighting, Bohn would be arrested.

“There were also two piles of dead birds, but because they were so badly decomposed animal control could not determine the cause of death,” Wegner said.

According to the ACSO, the fowl were seized and documented by members of the Amador County Animal Control, the Humane Society of the United States, Galt Police, and animal control from Stanislaus, El Dorado, Placer, Merced, Yolo, Tehama and Sacramento counties, as well as animal control from the cities of Sacramento and Lathrop.

Reached via telephone Bohn denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s not true. There was nothing like that going on here,” he said of the cockfighting charges. “The only cockfights going on were those caused by the humane society putting the birds together and making them fight.”

Bohn said he raised the fowl for food, breeding and for the eggs, which he sold. Wegner said Bohn did legitimately raise fighting cocks and sold them in states where cockfighting was still legal.

“This has been an insult to me and everyone that was here,” he said, adding that he has many rare breeds of fowl and has been raising them his entire life.

As for the number of people at his property at the time of the raid, Bohn said there was no illegal activity. “We were going to have a barbecue and there were some people here to buy chickens. It was just a Sunday afternoon thing.”

Bohn remains free on bail until his arraignment scheduled for June 15.

Update 6/8/05:

Bohn has officially been charged by the Amador County District Attorney’s Office in conjunction with a large cockfighting raid that occurred last month.

The charges were filed by the DA’s office and list Gina May Bohn age 37 and Robert Edward Wendell as co-defendants. The trio will be arraigned June 15 in Amador Superior Court.

Richard, Gina and Wendell each face one felony charge of alleged conspiracy to engage in cockfighting, which includes five overt acts. DA Todd Riebe said overt acts are acts that must be completed in order to carry out the conspiracy charge. Those overt acts allege that the three defendants communicated to other persons that an alleged cockfight would be held on the Bohn's’ property; that payment was allegedly collected from persons seeking admission to the Bohn's’ property; that alleged fighting birds were brought to the property; that the alleged fighting birds were weighed and tagged with numbered bands; and that the trio allegedly drafted a fighting schedule board that listed the weight and band numbers of the birds.

Additionally, the Bohn's and Wendell are charged with misdemeanor possession or training of fighting animals, possession of cockfighting implements and possession of a bird or animal for fighting.

The Bohn's are further charged with felony maintaining a place for wagering and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Richard is also charged with felony accepting a wager.

Update 8/5/05:

The roosters seized in an alleged illegal cockfighting ring were to be reunited in Amador County after losing their housing location at Placer County Animal Control.

Amador County Animal Control said that Placer County had grown tired of caring for the nine sometimes aggressive birds that were seized in a multi-jurisdictional raid in Fiddletown in May.

  (Photo courtesy of the Ledger-Dispatch)   Director of Amador Animal Control John Vail said Wednesday that 58 of the roosters were taken by animal control in the raid. Since then, the bulk of the birds has been kept at the Sutter Hill Animal Control facility. Nine were housed by Placer County Animal Control due to a lack of adequate storing space in Sutter Hill, where they have been since the May 15 raid.

A hefty grant allowed for the purchase of cages and makeshift chicken coops were assembled with plywood boards found around the facility, a blue plastic tarp and various odds and ends.

The coops include one with a large plywood roof to keep off sun, the other with a large plastic tarp. They both have misting systems to help cool the air.

“The Humane Society of the US gave Animal Control a $5,000 grant to humanely house the roosters,” Vail said. Before the two chicken coops were built, the roosters were kept in dog kennel areas. The lost room led to the building of the coops.

The Ledger Dispatch reported that the raid included animal control departments from Amador, Stanislaus, El Dorado, Placer, Merced, Yolo, Tehama and Sacramento counties and the cities of Sacramento and Lathrop, the HSUS and the Galt Police Department.

The HSUS - whose Web site is hsus.org - has a huge annual budget and Eric Sakach, director of the West Coast Regional Office of the Humane Society of the United States was part of the seizure operation, Vail said.

“A lot of people think all ASPCAs and non-profits are affiliated,” Vail said. “They are totally independent.”

“Other illegal activities accompany fighting roosters,” he said. Illegal drugs and weapons are routinely discovered at the rooster fights as well, he said.

Vail noted that the roosters remain the property of their owners, until Amador Superior Court decides the legal issues involved. If the owners are found guilty, the birds are “subject to disposition” and would be euthanized.

He said if the court finds the defendants not guilty, the roosters would be returned to their owners.

The euthanasia would likely be necessary because the birds could not be taken to a normal roost, due to their aggressiveness to other males. The fighting birds also often are given drugs and steroids, Vail said.

Update 10/12/05:

Bohn now faces perjury charges.

In a written statement, Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe said his office has filed another felony complaint against Richard Bohn charging him with two counts of perjury. The new charges allege Bohn gave false testimony at a hearing on the county animal control director’s petition to dispose of some of the fowl seized in the raid. Bohn is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges Oct. 21.

John Vail, director of Amador County Animal Control, said ownership could not be determined for 24 of the fighting cocks held by his officers. A petition filed by Vail requested that Superior Court order the two dozen birds be humanely destroyed or disposed of. After the petition was filed, Richard Bohn inspected all the birds held at Animal Control and claimed them as his own - a claim Vail disputed.

A Sept. 9 hearing was held on Vail’s petition where Bohn testified all of the birds held by animal control were his. However, when asked if he could explain why about 50 of his birds were found in temporary carrying cages May 15, Bohn’s only response was “no.” Bohn also testified he was not having a cockfight at his property.

Superior Court Judge Don F. Howard ruled against Bohn’s ownership claim. The judge said Bohn had no explanation why the birds he claimed ownership of were in temporary carrying cages. The judge granted the petition and ordered the birds of undetermined ownership be disposed of.

Meanwhile, the district attorney filed a petition seeking forfeiture of thousands of dollars in cash seized during the raid. The petition alleges the Bohn's were engaged in gambling in connection with cockfights for about seven years and cash seized by sheriff’s deputies was part of the proceeds derived from such gambling activity, Riebe said.

Richard Bohn, Gina Bohn and Richard Edward Wendell age 40, are jointly charged with felony conspiracy to engage in cockfighting from September 2003 through May 2005, and three misdemeanor charges related to cockfighting. The Bohn's are charged with another felony, maintaining a place for wagering on cockfighting, and three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors. Richard Bohn also is charged with another felony that he accepted a wager on a cockfight.

Richard Bohn’s attorney, Thomas Thomson of West Hollywood, filed a writ in the Third District Court of Appeal challenging the judge’s order to destroy the birds. On Sept. 20, the Court of Appeal issued an order staying all proceedings in Bohn’s case, which casts doubt on whether an Oct. 21 preliminary hearing will take place. Until the Court of Appeal lifts the stay, the Superior Court is unable to take action in the case, the district attorney said.

Contacted at his home, Bohn referred all questions to his attorney. “If we have a trial, I don’t think we can do so until after the first of the year,” Thomson said. Bohn’s attorney said he plans to be at the Oct. 21 court hearing unless some other agreement is made with the district attorney. “I think we have a defense if we have to go further,” Thomson said.

Riebe said he expects to prevail on the writ and is not concerned about the stay. “The Court of Appeal is dealing with issues that are not central to the prosecution of the case,” Riebe said. “ Whatever decision they render, it will not affect the strength of our case or prevent us from going forward after the stay is lifted.”

“Considering the significant amount of investigation and numerous defendants involved, I am very pleased that we have been able to successfully resolve the charges against 22 of the defendants without the need for a single trial,” the district attorney said.

Since charges were first filed in June, the District Attorney's Office has convicted 22 defendants for crimes related to regular cockfights that were being held around Fiddletown.

The district attorney filed charges against 30 spectators stopped by deputies. “To date, 22 of the defendants have been convicted of misdemeanor charges related to cockfighting,” Riebe said. Penalties included fines ranging from $270 to $1,000 and, in most cases, one to three years of probation with search and seizure conditions. Three defendants were ordered to serve jail sentences because of prior convictions for cockfighting-related offenses, Riebe said.

Arrest warrants were issued for three men who failed to appear: Francisco Larios, 23, and Aldo Naranjo Medina, 22, both believed to reside in San Diego, and Simon Azragoza Orozco, 24, who has addresses in West Sacramento and Oregon. Police are trying to find these men.

Charges are pending against five remaining defendants: Marlin Lee Ford, 43, of Stockton and Daniel Falcon Coyoca, 48, of Groveland, are charged with the misdemeanors of being present during the preparations for a cockfight, possession of fighting birds and possession of cockfighting implements. Ford is charged with resisting police officers and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“This is the first major cockfighting prosecution Amador County has seen in at least a decade,” Riebe said. “It has brought to our attention the nature of cockfighting as a cruel and brutal activity that masquerades as a sport but in reality is centered around illegal gambling. I believe that our prosecution of this case has sent a strong message that such activity will not be tolerated in Amador County.”

Update 11/11/05:

After his wife and another co-defendant pleaded guilty to lesser charges, a Bohn denied perjury charges against him in Amador County Superior Court stemming from a May 15 raid on his ranch where a large cockfight allegedly was about to start.

Richard Wayne Bohn, 54, allegedly perjured himself at a Sept. 9 hearing when the county animal control director attempted to dispose of some of the fowl seized in the raid. Bohn is accused of staging a cockfight with dozens of spectators and 800 animals. He was booked and released Oct. 21 on the perjury charges.

Deputy District Attorney Joseph Scolari made a plea bargain offer of felony probation and dropping the perjury charges if Bohn pleads guilty to the conspiracy to stage a cockfight charge. Bohn’s attorney, Thomas Thomson, said he is considering the offer.

Bohn is scheduled to appear again in court Dec. 15 for a case review hearing at which the offer may be discussed. Bohn’s preliminary examination to see if he will stand trial is scheduled for Jan 18.

Bohn, his estranged wife Gina May Bohn, 37, and ranch worker Richard Edward Wendell, 40, initially were charged with conspiracy to engage in cockfighting from September 2003 through May 2005, and three misdemeanor charges related to cockfighting.

However on Nov. 3, Wendell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to stage a cockfight and keeping fighting birds. He was ordered to spend 15 days in the jail work program and placed in 24 months summary probation.

Also Nov. 3, Gina Bohn pleaded guilty to permitting a minor to attend a cock fight. She was ordered into the jail work program and was given 12 months summary probation.

Update 11/30/05:

Bohn was jailed last week after being accused of domestic violence.

Amador County sheriff's deputies arrested Bohn at his Mount Whitney Drive home after a dispute with his estranged wife, Gina. The woman is staying in a guest house on the ranch. Bohn was also charged with corporal injury to a spouse dissuading a witness with a threat from reporting a crime and for receiving an allegedly stolen 12-gauge shotgun.

Wearing a red-and-white-striped jail suit, Bohn pleaded not guilty Nov. 22 in Amador County Superior Court where Judge David S. Richmond set his bail at $200,000. Richmond said the man had been released on his own recognizance pending his trial on the May 15 charges and two charges of perjury stemming from a September hearing in which he allegedly admitted owning 24 fighting roosters even though he denied that he was about to hold a cockfight just before sheriff's deputies raided his ranch.

During the raid, which may have been the largest of its kind in the county, deputies arrested about 30 people while the same number of spectators fled. Gina Bohn, who filed for divorce earlier this month, also was arrested and pleaded no contest Nov. 3 to one count of bringing a minor to a cockfight. About two dozen men have been convicted since May 15 of attending the cockfight.

The judge told Richard Bohn on Nov. 22 that if he posted bail, he was to stay away from his wife's home. But the man told the judge Gina Bohn's home is near the main house on his ranch where she does her laundry. He said if he was ordered to stay away from his home address, he would have no home.

"I have children and animals to care for and a house in the county," Bohn told the judge over a closed-circuit TV hookup between the jail and courtroom. "I'm not going anywhere."

Bohn has run his business, California Game Farm, out of his ranch for more than seven years, according to reports. He lists himself as a "self-employed fighting cock" ranch operator.

Deputy District Attorney Joseph Scolari has offered Bohn felony probation and dropping the perjury charges if the man pleads guilty to conspiracy to stage a cockfight. Bohn's attorney, Thomas Thomson, said earlier he is considering the offer. However, Bohn said, Thomson is out of the country until Dec. 10.

Bohn had been scheduled to appear again in court Dec. 15 for a case review hearing at which time the offer may be discussed. The judge said the new domestic violence charges also will be discussed on Dec. 15. Bohn's preliminary examination to see if he will stand trial is scheduled for January 18, 2006.

Update 6/23/06:

After more than a year of pleadings and hearings, trial dates are being set for Richard Bohn who is charged with multiple felony counts surrounding alleged cockfighting operations conducted on his Fiddletown ranch.

Amador Superior Court Judge David L. Devore heard testimony at a preliminary hearing from Bohn's estranged wife, Gina Bohn, contributing to the prosecution's charges against the defendant regarding two counts of allegedly dissuading a witness by force or threat and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.

The charges against the defendant span two sets of related cases. The cockfighting charges include two felony counts of cruelty to animals and separate counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of cockfighting, three felony counts of wagering, maintaining a place for wagering, accepting a wager, making or accepting a wager, two misdemeanor counts possession or training of a fighting bird, one misdemeanor count of possession of cockfighting implements, three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and four counts of perjury under oath.

The domestic violence charges include one felony count of corporal injury to spouse/cohabitant/child's parent, one felony count of dissuading a witness by force or threat, one felony count dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and one felony count receiving stolen property.

In the hearing Gina testified that on Nov. 27, 2005 she had been engaged in an altercation with her husband about money and divorce issues, as well as issues surrounding the cockfighting case. The argument went from verbal to physical, resulting in the defendant allegedly hitting Gina in the jaw.

Gina then said that she informed the defendant that she was going to call the police. According to her testimony, the defendant allegedly pushed her out the door and locked the door behind her. Gina then headed to a guest house on the property where she had been residing, with the intent of calling the police. Before she had a chance to call authorities, the defendant had allegedly cut the telephone lines.

The Gina Bohn then claimed to have walked to several different telephone booths before she could find a working booth to call 911, after which Amador County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Bohn residence where they arrested the defendant.

After Gina's testimony, Judge Devore could not determine probable cause for dissuading a witness by force or threat, but did find probable cause for dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.

Both sets of cases and charges will eventually be consolidated under one case number. The domestic violence/dissuading a witness is set for Aug. 8, 9 and 10, with a pre-trial on July 18. Jury trial for the cockfighting and perjury charges are set for early September.

Previous hearings included testimonies from various witnesses, including the defendant's own children - a 7-year-old son, a 14-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

In previous testimony the younger son had testified to seeing people fight chickens in the pit, to selling "beer, soda and tamales" to people at the alleged chicken fights. He also testified that his father had organized the chicken fights and had been refereeing and helping put spurs on the chickens the day the police came.

The older son had previously testified that his father had previously talked to him about being a witness in the case and had told him to "be brave." The court had asked the older son whether chickens had ever been placed in an enclosure at his house to fight, to which he replied, "Not for, as you say, gambling actually." The court then pointed out that gambling had not been brought up.

Bohn's daughter previously testified that she had seen chicken fights on the property "lots of times" and that when chickens fight there are "pointy things" on their legs "so they can kill chickens", according to her testimony. She also stated in her testimony that her father would "be in the pit" when the chickens fought and that her brother would collect money and her older brother would sell food to the people that came to watch a chicken fight. She also witnessed her brothers go out on go-carts with walkie-talkies on days that there were going to be chicken fights.

Previous testimonies also included those of Animal Control Director John Vail, Sergeant Drew Stidger of the Amador County Sheriff's office, ACSO Captain James Wegner, ACSO Officer Jim Cardoza and Richard Wendell, who used to live on Bohn's property as a caretaker of chickens.

Update 7/28/06:

Judge David L. Devore denied all defense motions filed by Thomas Thomson, Bohn's attorney.

After hearing argument from counsel at a July 18 hearing, the court ruled jointly on the defendant's motion to dismiss and demurrer to the charges in the cockfighting case.

The court denied the motions, including reversing its position on the conspiracy count.

The court had previously ruled in a preliminary examination that the prosecution could not charge a violation of Section 597 as a conspiracy. However, since the defendant's motions in the cockfighting case were denied, all of the cockfighting and gambling charges remain.

Section 597 contains California's "malicious mischief" codes dealing with animal cruelty.

The cockfighting fighting and perjury charges had been previously consolidated under one case referred to as the "lead case." However, the information being compiled for the case has not yet been filed.

The court also denied the defendant's motion to dismiss two counts in the perjury case - the motion made on the same grounds as motions to dismiss the cockfighting charges.

Judge Devore ordered the domestic violence and dissuading cases consolidated under one case number. The defendant was arraigned on the consolidated information, with the case set for trial confirmation on July 31.

Charges in the domestic violence/dissuading case include one felony count bodily injury to spouse, cohabitant and parent of child, one felony count using force or threats to attempt to prevent a witness from reporting a crime, one felony count maliciously cutting a telephone line, one felony count withholding stolen property and one misdemeanor count inducing false testimony.

Bohn entered not guilty pleas to all charges. The cockfighting case is set for trial on Aug. 21.

Update 2/8/06:

Separate court dates were set last week for Bohn.

Bohn was arraigned on charges of spousal abuse and illegal possession of a shotgun. He was ordered back to court on those charges Feb. 17.

Bohn also is scheduled to return to court March 7 to face charges related to the May 15 cockfight and accusations that he perjured himself when testifying about some of the 800 fowl found at his ranch. He remains free on $211,000 bail pending the hearings.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Bohn at his Mount Whitney Drive home Nov. 27 and jailed him after a dispute with his estranged wife, Gina.  The husband was charged with corporal injury to a spouse, dissuading a witness with a threat from reporting a crime and for receiving an allegedly stolen 12-gauge shotgun.

Richard Bohn and his estranged spouse have been sparring legally over their property, which includes their Fiddletown ranch.

At a September hearing, Bohn allegedly admitted owning two dozen fighting roosters even though he denied he was about to hold a cockfight just before sheriff's deputies raided his ranch five months earlier.

About two dozen men were later convicted of various charges related to the cockfight. Several of the men still are being sought by police.

Gina Bohn, filed for divorce in January.

Reference:

The Ledger-Dispatch

The Sacramento Bee