U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III sentenced Macon native Shelley Johnson on Tuesday to three year plus one month in prison for his participation in a dogfighting and cocaine distribution ring based in Roberta, Georgia.
“Johnson participated in a brutal criminal enterprise that profited from the suffering of animals,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said.
Johnson is also subject to a $25,000 fine and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to participate in an animal fighting venture. He is the twelfth defendant that was sentenced in the conspiracy, and his sentence stipulates that he is prohibited from owning or possessing dogs.
“Dogfighting is a crime, and also closely associated with other serious crimes. The sentences in this prosecution show those who engage in this cruel and inhumane practice face significant prison time,” Kim said.
Authorities executed a search warrant at Johnson’s residence in Macon on February 26, 2020, where they recovered 13 “pit bull terrier-type dogs” that all had scars that were consistent with injuries sustained in a dog fight. Also discovered were heavy chains, ground stakes, and medical supplies used to treat dogfighting injuries.
“The brutality of dogfighting alone is sickening; but this case demonstrates the strong union that exists between this bloody and inhumane business and the world of illegal gun and drug trafficking,” U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said.
The criminal cocaine distribution and dogfighting ring spanned three states: Georgia, Florida and Alabama, from May 2019 to February 2020. Law enforcement executed 15 search warrants of residences in February 2020 and seized more than 150 dogs that were used for organized dogfighting.
“Our office is committed to not only prosecuting dogfighting participants, but working alongside our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we will root out the entire criminal network and hold them responsible for their crimes,” Leary said.
On January 29, 2021, a 136-count indictment was unsealed by the Middle District of Georgia which indicted 11 persons with various charges. Johnson and two others were charged after criminal information was provided to authorities, the US attorneys’ statement noted.
“This investigation and prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those individuals involved in the inhumane torture of animals for entertainment,” said Jason Williams, special agent in charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General.
Johnson, aka Gold Mouth, sent communications to co-conspirator Jarvis Lockett about various aspects of illegal dogfighting. The criminal pair discussed breeding dogs, the sharpening of dog’s teeth for fighting, cash prizes for fight winners, and other matters related to the business of dogfighting.
“This investigation and prosecution should send a strong zero-tolerance message to those individuals involved in the inhumane torture of animals for entertainment,” said the USDA’s Williams.
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