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Charles City County man charged in interstate dogfighting conspiracy

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Federal authorities have charged a Charles City County man with conspiring with four others in an interstate dogfighting network that involved breeding, training and conditioning pit bulls to fight. Wagers as high as $20,000 were placed on the outcome.

Royal T. Washington was charged last week in a criminal information that he conspired to participate in an animal-fighting venture from about Nov. 23, 2019, through at least Nov. 20, 2020.

The charge comes 20 months after authorities executed a search warrant at 4920 Old Union Road in Charles City, where Washington is alleged to have kept 15 pit bulls and alleged dogfighting paraphernalia, including 13 weighted dog collars, 12 heavy dog chains, a dog treadmill, dog breeder certificates and a dog shock collar with a remove activator, according to charging documents.

Washington kept and maintained the dogs in a manner consistent with dogfighting, and several of the animals had scarring consistent with fighting, authorities said in court documents. Four unnamed co-conspirators from Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland participated in the network.

In March, Raymond Johnson, 41, of Henrico County was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Richmond to just over three years in prison for his role in a multistate conspiracy to breed, train and fight dogs, and gamble on the outcome of the matches. Prosecutors said Johnson engaged in the enterprise with four other co-conspirators beginning in November 2019 that involved sponsoring and exhibiting dogs for fighting in Virginia and Maryland.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately say whether Washington and Johnson were tied to the same venture.

According to Washington’s charging document, he and his co-conspirators discussed — by cellphone and text messages — dogfighting; the results of certain dogfights; and the breeding, selling and transportation of dogs for the purpose of dogfighting.

The conspirators exhibited dogs during dogfights and placed bets on those dogfights, authorities said. Further, they “researched and identified fighting-dog bloodlines and wins and losses of individual fighting dogs, for purposes of breeding dogs to maximize the aggressiveness of the offspring.”

In addition, the participants used equipment to train dogs for fighting, which included many of the items seized during the search of Washington’s property.

On the same day authorities searched Washington’s property, Washington deleted all files from his cellphone “in an effort of hide from investigators evidence of his criminal activities,” prosecutors said in court documents.

But authorities were able to retrieve telephone conversations and text messages that showed his active involvement in the conspiracy, prosecutors said.

For example, on July 20, 2020, Washington sent a text message to “co-conspirator-2” in what authorities said was an effort to set up a dogfight with a 33-pound female for a $20,000 wager. “I can put it out there,” the co-conspirator replied.

In another exchange, Washington told “co-conspirator-1” in an Aug. 6, 2020, phone call that he had “rolled” a dog named Dexter three to four times against a dog named Kodak in Emporia. The word “roll” is slang for a dogfight.

On Nov. 21, 2020, Washington surrendered the dog Dexter to Charles City County Animal Control officers; the dog had scarring consistent with dogfighting, according to charging documents.

Washington is scheduled to appear Aug. 11 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Hanes for his initial court appearance, a bail hearing and a potential plea agreement. Reached Monday, Washington’s attorney, Alexander Taylor, declined to comment.


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