Pet Love Shack
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Height: 6-0 Weight: 215 Born: 1/15/71
College: Northern Illinois/ NFL Experience: 6 yrs.
If found guilty, Johnson could get ten years in prison for every dog linked
to his operation -- more than 500 years
Prosecutors still mulling dog fight charges
Nearly six weeks after Osage County sheriff's deputies raided a reported organized dog fight at the home of a professional New York Giants running back football player near Sperry, prosecutors are still mulling whether to file criminal charges.
District Attorney Larry Stuart said he hasn't studied the sheriff's reports and it would be wrong to assume there was a dog fight.
Citations were written to 14 people during the Feb. 12 raid at the home of LeShon and Michelle Johnson, Sheriff Russell Cottle said. There were wounded pit bull terriers in a blood-spattered barn and some 70 dogs staked in the nearby woods, according to a report filed by Deputy Lou Ann Brown. The lack of action by prosecutors has some neighbors upset, said Bob McIntyre, a nearby convenience store owner.
McIntyre said that weeks before the law enforcement raid, neighbors had asked authorities to investigate because they suspected dog fights on the property.
"Besides concern over animal cruelty, they (residents) were afraid some youth taking a walk in the woods would run into the pit bulls staked there," McIntyre said.
Nicole Gray of Dallas, Texas, said she sold the property in January to the Johnsons. It includes 11 acres with a home, a guest house with garage and a barn with stalls.
The tickets were written when sheriff's deputies, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer and a Skiatook police officer responded to a tip that there was a pit bull fight in progress at the home of Johnson, a New York Giants running back from Haskell.
When deputies arrived about 11:40 p.m., several people "scattered like a covey of quail" and ran into the woods, Cottle said.
Nine people were rounded up by deputies while they were hiding in vehicles and outbuildings. An unknown number of people escaped, the report said.
Johnson was found inside the residence. His wife was outside the door of an outbuilding with a wounded pit bull, according to the sheriff and the report. Both denied involvement, Cottle said. "They (Johnsons) weren't given tickets, but we turned in our report and they (prosecutors) may be looking at charges against him (Johnson) because it was his place," Cottle said. "I don't know what's going on at that (prosecution) end; we did our job."
Also according to the sheriff's report, deputies saw blood spots on a center isle of the barn and a dog in a pen bleeding.
There were several vehicles parked at the residence. Many of them had portable dog kennels and license tags from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tulsa, the sheriff said.
Meanwhile, Stuart has turned the case over to his assistant, Rene Henry, to review the case for possible prosecution. Henry has not returned repeated phone calls.
If the district attorney's office decides to develop the citations as misdemeanors, those ticketed could face $500 fines or up to a year in jail. The penalties for hosting a dog fight are more severe.
Garl Willis, lead investigator with the Tulsa police department's animal control division, said organizing dog fights is a felony. Upon conviction, the sentence can range up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Willis said he only investigates dog-fighting incidents within the Tulsa city limits.
"I think it (pit bull fighting) is more of a macho thing," Willis said, "that and the large amounts of money involved. I don't understand how people can be involved in gathering to watch two dogs tear each other apart."
Willis said investigators can confiscate all vehicles, equipment and the dogs themselves if they suspect a dog fight has been held.
CONTRIBUTING: Staff writer Mark A. Hutchison
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