Oklahoma County Couple Accused Of Cockfighting Charged With 59 Felony Counts

An Oklahoma County couple accused of having a cockfighting operation has been charged with 59 felony counts.

Friday, May 26th 2023, 10:39 pm

By: Chris Yu


An Oklahoma County couple accused of having a cockfighting operation has been charged with 59 felony counts.

Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna filed the charges on Monday against 50-year-old Ellie Grino and his wife, 45-year-old Jannine Yee. Their charges include one count of keeping a place, equipment or facility to be used in permitting cockfighting, 50 counts of possession of birds with the intent to engage in a cockfight, and eight counts of cruelty to animals.

According to the incident report from the Oklahoma City Police Department, a McLoud police officer arrested Grino on April 9 for driving under the influence. Police said Grino had fighting spurs inside his vehicle, along with wooden transport boxes for roosters. Grino told law enforcement that he had roosters used for fighting, the incident report said.

A McLoud officer then requested an Oklahoma City police officer to go to Grino's home on Florence Avenue in Newalla to see if there was cockfighting there, according to the incident report.

After arriving on scene, the Oklahoma City officer contacted OKC Animal Welfare because there were many roosters in the back of the property tied to stakes, the incident report said. 

The OKC Animal Welfare investigator said when she arrived on scene, she "could easily see individually-tethered gamecock-type roosters" from the street, according to the probable cause affidavit filed in Oklahoma County District Court. She said after seeing photos of the gaffs seized from Grino's vehicle, she confirmed they were used for cockfighting.

"They're called knives and gaffs that they use and that's actually what they strap to the birds' legs during the fight," said OKC Animal Welfare Superintendent Jon Gary. "It's a very brutal sport."

The probable cause affidavit said Grino's wife, Yee, was home, but refused to allow officers to search the property. After police obtained a search warrant the next day, the OKC Animal Welfare investigator found vitamins, supplements and testosterone used for roosters and "regularly seen with cockfighting," according to the probable cause affidavit.

In addition, a shed on the property had transport boxes, hold boxes for storing the birds between weigh-ins and fights and antibiotics, the affidavit said. Investigators also found 181 cockfighting-related magazines and notes on breeding, fighting and conditioning the roosters, according to the affidavit.

Furthermore, the shed had five pairs of leather leg wraps that held the knives or gaffs during cockfights, the affidavit said. Investigators also found a large metal sign of two roosters fighting, as well as additional vitamins, antibiotics and leg tethers in the chicken pen area, the affidavit stated.

The affidavit said there were nine pairs of gaffs that police confiscated from Grino.

In all, the OKC Animal Welfare investigator said her team confiscated 50 roosters, 43 hens and 158 eggs from the property, according to the affidavit. She said the birds only had access to murky water, and the tethered roosters had either a triangle hut or no shelter at all.

"This is the first one that we've had in a few years now," said Gary about the case, adding that the plan was to send the seized chickens to sanctuaries.

In November 2002, Oklahomans approved a measure making cockfights illegal by a vote of 56.19% to 43.81%. According to state statute, cockfighting carries up to 10 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.

But Republican Rep. Justin Humphrey, who represents the 19th District, said the punishment is excessive.

"I'm a police officer and if you assault police, that carries a charge of five years. So naturally, I looked at things of second-degree rape, I looked at assaulting an elderly person, and all of these are either equivalent or less than cockfighting," said Humphrey.

According to state law, abuse of a vulnerable adult carries up to two years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine while second-degree rape carries between one and 15 years in prison.

Humphrey authored a bill that would allow individual counties to vote on making cockfighting a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Under the measure, a second conviction would carry up to a $1,000 fine and subsequent convictions would impose up to a $2,000 fine.

"I've been called everything on this. I think I'm being more than reasonable to have a conversation that these are not, not the people that we want to see in prison," said Humphrey. "But if they're habitual offenders and they keep doing it, I have no problem having a discussion that on the third charge, we look at felony."

Humphrey's bill passed the Oklahoma House in March and was sent to the Senate.

"It looks like all of a sudden, we're going backwards instead of forwards, and that's why this bill is extremely important and it needs to be something we pick up next year right off the bat," said Humphrey. 

Meanwhile, Animal Wellness Action, an animal advocacy group based in Washington DC, applauded the Oklahoma County district attorney for charging the suspects.

“Arresting cockfighters for possession of fighting animals is a long overdue avenue for enforcement of Oklahoma law. There’s no mistaking why some people have these specially bred, housed and trained fighting animals," said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action.

Animal Wellness Action cited data from a Sooner Survey released in March, which showed that 87% of 500 registered voters in Oklahoma opposed cockfighting.

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