The first of six individuals indicted for dog-fighting and animal cruelty charges in a Tallapoosa County Alabama, dog fighting ring pleaded guilty Tuesday, with Judge Tom Young presiding, reports the Alex City Outlook.
Roderick Sweetwyne, 42, pleaded guilty to four counts of dog fighting and one counts of possession of a controlled substance. He received 60 months for both the dog fighting charges and the possession charges, to be served concurrently.
Sweetwyne's specific role in the dog fighting ring is unclear.
In the original indictment, Sweetwyne was charged with four counts of dog fighting, four counts of animal cruelty and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. In the deal, the state dropped the four animal cruelty charges and one possession of a controlled substance.
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He has been ordered to pay court fines and costs, in addition to restitution. The state of Alabama has 30 days to determine what the total amount will be, but New Site Police Chief John McKelvey said it was going to be “a substantial amount of restitution.”
“Restitution will also include the housing of the animals while we were waiting to come to court,” McKelvey said.
Chief McKelvey says the ring involved 55 dogs that were found at three locations. Three of the dogs involved in the ring have died, but most of the others have been adopted, he said.
Since dog fighting is a non-guideline crime in Alabama, McKelvey said there is no specific time given to those convicted of the crime. Therefore, sentencing is left up to the discretion of the judge.
Sweetwyne's attorney, Jason Jackson, says the state had a weak case against his client, but he felt it was in his best interest to accept the state's offer considering evidence that was presented.
“I am pleased with it – he is going to prison,” McKelvey said. “I think this sets the precedent for the county and circuit here that if you fight dogs, you are going to prison.”
The other five individuals named in the some 160-count indictment have yet to have their cases resolved.