A man convicted twice before for dogfighting was arraigned Sunday on 18 counts of animal fighting after more than a dozen pit bulls were found dead in a garage that went up in flames, authorities said.
The fire broke out in a one-car detached garage at 101 Hillside Ave. in Freeport on Friday afternoon, where Anthony Reddick, 53, lives in a basement apartment, authorities said.
Officials became aware of the "dogfighting facility," where the pit bulls also were trained and bred, after the 13 deceased dogs -- ages 2 months to 5 years -- were found, according to Assistant District Attorney Jed Painter.
Three pit bulls were found alive and were taken to a local shelter, including one named "KK" with facial scarring consistent with dogfighting injuries, authorities said.
Reddick fled "soon after" officials arrived, but was caught by district attorney squad detectives in Hempstead, where he was arrested, authorities said. He was charged with two felonies -- one for breeding the dogs for fighting, the other for training them -- and 16 misdemeanors, one for each dog. Bail was set at $20,000 cash bail or bond by Judge Tricia Ferrell in Nassau County First District Court in Hempstead.
Two people showed up to court on Reddick's behalf, a woman who cried when Reddick was ordered held on bail and friend Tony Johnson, who said he didn't know anything about the dogs kept in the garage and didn't believe Reddick had any involvement.
In an effort to secure a higher bail package, Painter, who requested $50,000 bail, told the court that Reddick has been convicted in two prior dogfighting cases. One was in 1998, for misdemeanor dogfighting in Nassau County and the second in 2001 for felony dogfighting in Suffolk County, Painter said.
An additional search warrant for the house on the property found other evidence, officials said, including a treadmill with dog tethers, restraints for a female dog used for breeding, syringes with various medications including for wound care and animal vitamin supplements. Also found were documents with writings pertaining to dogfighting, and a machete.
Reddick told prosecutors on Saturday that he "burned his hands trying to put out the fire to save his dogs," according to court documents, but in later statements, Reddick said the "dogs in the back [garage] aren't his," and he only owns the one in his basement apartment.
Painter described the homeowner as an absentee landlord living in Texas who said squatters have been on the property.
Reddick told the judge he is not married and pays child support for his five children. According to his Legal Aid attorney, Jenna Marie Suppon, Reddick is a lifelong Long Island resident and has worked in maintenance at the same company in Hempstead for the past 11 years.
The cause of the fire, which may have been electrical in nature, has not yet been determined but does not appear suspicious, officials said.
Reddick, who faces a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison on the top felony charges, is due back in Nassau District Court in Mineola on Wednesday.