Men involved in cockfight plead guilty, get probation

Eight men caught at an Eagle Point cockfight in June are being sentenced to probation under plea agreements that get the felony charge of participating in cockfighting treated as a misdemeanor.

Three of the defendants pleaded guilty Monday, bringing an end to seven of the cases stemming from the cockfight discovered at a Willamette Egg Farm warehouse off Highway 62.

The eighth defendant is scheduled to plead guilty next month in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Assistant District Attorney David Hoppe agreed to the deals in part because the men — ranging in age from 19 to 78 — did not join the estimated 30 others who fled when police arrived. Instead, hey accepted responsibility for taking part in the crime and did not insist on a jury trial.

The men, all Hispanic, did not try in court to justify their participation in what Oregon law considers a felony, though the cockfights are legal betting and entertainment venues in other countries.

"Though it may be legal where they come from, it's not legal here," Hoppe said. "There is no cultural defense to cockfighting.

"In the end, this is an animal abuse situation," Hoppe said. "That's why just being at a cockfight is a crime."

Alberto Rincon Martinez, 57, of Phoenix; 19-year-old Rafael Ramirez of Medford and 78-year-old Felipe Reyes-Garza pleaded guilty Monday and were sentenced to 11 months bench probation, court records show. They were also ordered to have no contact with Willamette Egg Farms and can not possess any live fowl, court records show.

Similar sentences already have been handed down to three other defendants in the case: Raudel Rubalcaba, 63, of Medford; Pedro Garcia of Dorris, Calif.; Victor Ramon Ulloa, 29, of Klamath Falls.

The stiffest sentence went to Leonel Sanchez, 26, of White City, whom police identified as a Willamette employee accused of opening the facility to the cockfight. Along with the 11 months of probation, Sanchez also agreed to $950 in fines, attorneys' fees and assessments in his Sept. 25 sentencing, court records show. He also was fired from his job shortly after his arrest.

Alberto Martinez Jr., 21 of Phoenix, had his plea agreement scheduled for Feb. 12, court records show.

— Mark Freeman

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