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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cockfighter Guilty; Had Blessings of Law Enforcement

Cockfighter convicted in conspiracy case..... Man sold vitamins, knives for use in gambling operation
The Northern Virginia Daily by Preston Knight -- June 14, 2008

HARRISONBURG — When at Little Boxwood Cockpit, do as the Romans do. Cockfighting is a game of gallantry, a sport that has some honor and valor and one that has lived on since the Roman Empire, Charles Leo Kingrea testified on the second day of his jury trial on cockfighting and gambling related charges Friday in U.S. District Court. "Abraham Lincoln fought chickens," he said.

But, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bondurant argued, everything the Romans practiced did not stand the test of time — slavery, thanks to Lincoln, ironically, among them. That meant that Kingrea, 61, of Gordonsville, did not have a free pass to conspire to engage in an animal fighting venture or gambling related to cockfighting, conspire to sell or transport knives to be used in cockfighting or to serve as a principal who aided a gambling operation tied to cockfighting, Bondurant said. A jury of 10 men and two women jury agreed. Kingrea was convicted on all three charges against him after the jury deliberated for nearly two hours Friday afternoon. He had no comment afterward. "I hope it at least sends the message that it is illegal," Bondurant said after the verdict. Kingrea was among four men arrested after federal authorities raided Little Boxwood, which is near Stanley, in May 2007. The cockfighting ring has existed for 30 years and, according to an indictment handed down in the case, had the blessings of Page County law enforcement because one of the men arrested is said to have bribed a law enforcement official to keep deputies away from the facility.

Page County Sheriff Daniel W. Presgraves issued a press release after the raid stating that he received a $500 donation from one of the men, but denied that it was a bribe. Bondurant would not comment on how Kingrea's case related to those of the other defendants, nor would he expand on information revealed in court Thursday by Judge Glen E. Conrad that the cockfighting investigation might be connected to a recent FBI raid of a Page County business and a larger public corruption scandal. On Friday the majority of the testimony came from Kingrea, whose role at Little Boxwood was to sell supplies such as vitamins, knives and gloves that were necessary for cockfighting. He never made money off entry fees, but also did not have to pay to set up his table. Kingrea testified that all of his materials were legal. Bondurant asked whether everything on his table was intended for cockfighting, and the defendant said the supplies could be used for any purpose for chickens. Bondurant then pressed Kingrea, asking if he had ever set up at a county fair or gone to a school to sell his items. Both answers were no, and the prosecutor asked if Kingrea had ever sold any of the supplies for non-cockfighting purposes. After Kingrea said he had, he refused to indicate to whom. "I don't do any harm to my fellow man," he said.

With chickens, however, that mindset apparently changes. Kingrea had gone to Little Boxwood for about 30 years and sold supplies there for the last five. He said he originally got into the feed business, and the supply table grew from that. Kingrea testified that he would make anywhere from $200 to $800 on fight days. Although defense attorney Edward Childress argued that his client was just a small fish in a large net and did not deserve to be charged federally, the jury did not take the bait. "It took a lot of people working in concert to pull it off," Bondurant said in his closing arguments. "No one has ever said others won't be charged. This is not the end of the road in the investigation." Kingrea, who faces up to three years in prison, remains free on bond until Oct. 3, when he will be sentenced. Two co-defendants will be sentenced that day as well — Luis Aguirre Martinez, who owned the cockpit, and Winchester resident Dale Moreland, who operated it. Both men have entered plea agreements. A fourth man, Albert C. Taylor, of Luray, will be tried in September. He is accused of giving the bribe to the law enforcement official.   Contact Preston Knight at

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