By John Celock
Legislation that would up the penalties for dog fighting in New Jersey, along with placing it under the RICO statute has advanced.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to advance a bill which would allow of jail time for dog fighting rings and allow for the RICO statute to be used in order to handle the money, drugs and firearms involved in the cases. The committee was told that prosecutors need more tools to crack down on the crime.
“In our case, these individuals were betting tens of thousands of dollars, up to $50,000 on one fight,” acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park told the committee. “This is was a profit making enterprise. Not just the marquee fight but secondary fights.”
Park discussed a dog fighting ring that her office broke up in Elizabeth where many of those arrested were able to get out of jail quickly and will face probation. She said that having increased tools at her disposal will help for future cases.
Park told the committee that if she could have the possibility of sending someone to prison, it will provide her with additional bargaining power to get those involved to testify against the ringleaders.
In addition, Park said that adding the crime under RICO for make sense, since she finds it to be a “profit making enterprise.”
“It’s a profit making enterprise and that’s why the RICO statute makes sense,” she said. “Not just prosecute the dog fighting but put in the gambling, the drugs and the arms.”
Park said that dog fighting is a $500 million a year industry in the United States. She noted that the danger of breaking up the rings is high do to the amount of guns carried at the events.
“There are drugs involved, there are arms involved,” she said. “There is a lot of money and they want to protect it. You’ll see out of state people coming in armed.”
The bill was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) and Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), both from Park’s county.
“This issue of dog fighting is one of the most visible, most violent, most painful example of how these individuals cross state lines and cross town lines and are making a lot of money,” Kean said.