Monday, August 16, 2010

Boynton Beach Dogfighting Suspects Plead Guilty to Reduced Charge

By Michael J. Mooney, Broward-Palm Beach New Times

Last year, we brought you the story of three Boynton Beach men charged with operating a large-scale, Michael Vick-esque dogfighting ring. Paul Green, Ricky Norfus, and Samuel Denson were arrested in September 2007 and went to trial on felony charges, each facing up to 15 years in prison.

But the first trial ended in a hung jury. The second trial was scheduled to begin last December, but a number of delays pushed it back.

News came late Friday that the men pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of animal cruelty. None will face prison time.

When investigators first arrested the three men, the evidence seemed overwhelming. There were photos of dogs with scars, a slatmill (a large wooden treadmill for dogs), a spring pole (often used to strengthen the jaws of a fighting dog), a collapsible wooden ring police said was made for fighting, and a number of old dog-fighting magazines. At Norfus' house, police also found an arc welder, the same kind of machine Michael Vick used to electrocute several dogs.

But the defense contended that the men ran a legal pit-bull breeding operation and that the equipment found was for general animal fitness. The arc welder was not admitted into evidence.

The plea deal brings to an end nearly three full years of legal battles.

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