A judge Tuesday morning sentenced a Douglas County man to serve one year on probation for his role in a cockfighting operation south of Eudora.
District Judge Kay Huff told Ezequiel Olivas, 45, he would need to serve a six-month prison sentence if he’s found to violate his probation terms, including 40 hours of community service and the prohibition of owning any animals for fighting purposes or any firearms.
“You now have a felony on your record and cannot legally possess any firearms and weapons, that includes rifles and shotguns, anything for hunting purposes,” Huff said. “Anything for sporting purposes is forbidden.”
Olivas had pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct of cockfighting in May in the first case charged under a 2009 Kansas law that made the crime a felony, according to Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s office.
Douglas County Sheriff’s officers began investigating Olivas and another man, Jose Guerrero, in April 2007, and officers in 2009 executed a search warrant on Olivas’s rural residence about 7 miles south of Eudora. Officers seized 118 gamecocks, 48 hens and three chicks, according to Branson’s office.
During Tuesday’s hearing, defense attorney Paul Morrison, a former Kansas attorney general, said Olivas grew up in Mexico, moved to the area and has became a naturalized U.S. citizen a few years ago.
“I’m not trying to make excuses for him. He gets the point. He understands how serious this crime is, how serious it’s considered to be in this country,” Morrison said.
But Morrison said there’s a cultural difference where cockfighting is more acceptable, and many immigrants experience a shock when they come to the United States.
“They learn the hard way about the fact that this is not only illegal but that it’s recently become a felony,” Morrison said. “In Mexico and many countries, it’s not only legal, it’s almost considered to be a national sport.”
Morrison told Huff his client had quit fighting rooster “several years ago” but that he still had paraphernalia on his property when he was arrested.
Assistant district attorney Eve Kemple, who prosecuted the case, said Olivas had a earlier charge in Kansas City, Kan., reduced to disorderly conduct but that it originally involved an allegation for gamecock fighting as well.
“Mr. Olivas knew this was illegal activity and not acceptable in this country,” Kemple said.
Guerrero was also charged in the Douglas County case, but as both men were free on bond he failed to show up for court in 2009. According to court records, his $5,000 bond was forfeited because the bondsman was unable to locate Guerrero, and his case is still listed as pending.