A Freeport man with three prior convictions for dogfighting pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges he participated in another dogfighting racket - this one allegedly connected to the Bloods street gang, prosecutors said.
In an indictment unsealed in Nassau County Court Tuesday, prosecutors allege that Anthony Reddick, 54, was part of a lucrative criminal operation in which pit bulls were bred and trained to attack one another in high-stakes matches, leading to the death of at least one dog.
Participants in the dogfighting racket would stitch the mouths of "bait dogs" shut so other pit bulls could maul them during "training" sessions, authorities have said. Some animals were fed muscle-building supplements to improve performance, and thousands of dollars were wagered on individual dogfights, authorities said.StoryOfficials: 15 charged in heroin, dogfighting ringDA: Man gets 1-3 years after 13 pit bulls dieDataLI crime stats
Reddick's involvement in the ring allegedly began when he was released on parole in March 2015, after serving 5 months in an upstate prison for breeding, training, and keeping dogs for fighting during 2014, officials said.
Those crimes were discovered after 13 abused pit bulls died in a garage fire at Reddick's Freeport home last year, officials said. Reddick was sentenced to 1 to 3 years of prison in September 2014 for that case, just shy of the maximum sentence of 1 1/3 years to 4 years, officials said.
For Reddick, who was legally barred from owning any other animals for 15 years after his 2014 dogfighting conviction, Tuesday's indictment marked the fourth time he's been charged in a dogfighting case.
His first two convictions came in 1998, for misdemeanor dogfighting in Nassau County, and in 2001 for felony dogfighting in Suffolk County, prosecutors said.
His lawyer in the current case, Steven Barnwell, of Mineola, said in court Tuesday that Reddick did not commit any of the crimes now alleged by prosecutors.
"He did not organize any pit-bull fighting or commit other crimes, Barnwell said.
Reddick was ordered held at the Nassau County jail on $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash bail. He faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted on the dogfighting related charges.
The Nassau County district attorney's office has been trying for several years to change laws related to animal fighting crimes, which are currently classified in the state's agriculture and markets law, and cap prison sentences for dogfighting at 4 years, officials said.
Along with Reddick, at least 14 others have been charged with various crimes in connection with the same investigation into drug dealing and dogfighting in Nassau.
The cases against them are ongoing, prosecutors said, and their lawyers could not be reached for comment.
The May arrests of Reddick and the others followed a five-month drug-dealing and dogfighting investigation by prosecutors, police, and state authorities, who rescued 11 dogs, including two newborn puppies, in the bust, which they dubbed Operation Blood Sport.
Authorities at the time said the ring was overseen by Bloods crews based in Freeport and Roosevelt, who peddled heroin and prescription drugs as part of the criminal operation.