SC man convicted of federal dog fighting
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) – A 32-year-old Columbia man was convicted by a federal jury on a dog fighting charge, according to United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon.
Santerrio Montinez Smith was convicted of Buying, Possessing, Training, Transporting, and Receiving Animals for Purposes of Having the Animals Participate in an Animal Fighting Venture. He faces up to 5 years in prison for his conviction.
According to the release, during the trial, seven witnesses were called to establish that, between March and September 2017, Smith had pit bull terriers for the purpose of fighting the dogs. Evidence presented in court showed that Smith kept his fighting dogs at his grandmother’s house on Dubard Boyle Road in Richland County. It also showed Smith already had a 2014 state conviction for dog fighting,
On September 20, 2017, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Columbia Violent Gang Task Force (CVGTF), with assistance from the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), performed a search warrant at the residence on Dubard Boyle Road and seized eight pit bull-type dogs.
A forensic veterinarian, Dr. Cathy Anderson, DVM, testified that she examined the dogs and that two of them had both scarring and fresh wounds indicative of the dogs having participated in organized dog fighting.
In his testimony, Terry Mills, the Director of Blood Sports Investigations at the ASPCA, educated the jury about the underworld of organized dog fighting. Mills, a former law enforcement officer with the Missouri Highway Patrol, testified that he had spent 18 months working undercover in a massive multi-state dog fighting investigation. During that time, he had essentially lived the life of a dog fighter, including the treatment dogs receive before and after a fight. According to Mills, “the losing dog rarely leaves the building.”
In court, government attorneys then played a dozen recorded phone calls with Santerrio, his brother Dantrell Smith, their father James “Denny” Green, and other known dog fighters, discussing the dogs and different aspects of dog fighting. One call revealed Santerrio Smith and another dog fighter made arrangements for an upcoming fight.
Both Dantrell Smith and Green pled guilty to federal dog fighting charges. Those two, along with Santerrio, will be sentenced after the court has received and reviewed a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.
Santierro Smith was convicted after a day-and-a-half long trial before U.S. District Judge Mary G. Lewis. It reportedly took the jury two hours to find Smith guilty.
This was Smith’s second federal conviction this year. In August, he was convicted after trial for distributing and conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin.