PASCO — An Eltopia man was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail for raising and training roosters to participate in illegal cockfighting.
When police went to raid the rural home of Francisco Javier Mendoza in May, he reportedly was caught running into a field with bags holding more than 50 pounds of marijuana.
Mendoza, 35, entered a modified guilty plea in Franklin County Superior Court to possession of marijuana over 40 grams and animal fighting. The Alford plea means he denied committing the crimes but believed prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
Mendoza had no known criminal history before the two felony convictions. Judge Robert Swisher is allowing him to serve the jail time on work release.
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According to a search warrant in the case, a Washington State Patrol detective got a tip in spring 2009 that Mendoza may have been selling large quantities of marijuana -- 200 to 300 pounds -- from his Blackman Ridge Road home. The home is on a secluded road and is surrounded by farm fields but no other residents.
The detective is assigned to the FBI Tri-Cities Violent Crimes Gang Task Force. While working on the marijuana case, he also got involved in an investigation with the Washington State Gambling Commission into illegal animal fights.
An informant allegedly reported seeing Mendoza frequently bet and fight his roosters at cockfights between October and January in north Franklin County.
At one event Mendoza won $20,000 fighting his roosters and sold baby roosters for $150 each, the search warrant said. At another event he allegedly bet on 10 fights and lost all of them, and in January he reportedly lost $5,000 at a cockfight.
Court documents state that during one event in Mesa, Mendoza and two other men had to pay $1,300 to fight their roosters and ended up winning $27,000.
Detectives watched Mendoza's home for a few months and even flew over the property after seeing numerous roosters in separate coops, as reportedly is common when training them for fighting, documents said.
A search warrant to look for evidence of cockfighting and gambling was signed by Swisher on May 18.
Two days later, federal agents and task force officers approached the home at 7:45 a.m. and saw Mendoza and a woman running toward a farm field, court documents said. Mendoza allegedly was carrying two garbage bags.
Officers who caught the pair found several large packages of marijuana in the garbage bags, documents said. The original search warrant was amended to include evidence of marijuana manufacturing or delivery, and about 18 more packages of pot allegedly were found in the home.
When Mendoza is finished with his jail time, he must do up to 12 months of community supervision for the drug conviction.
Mental health review ordered park threat case
PASCO — A 39-year-old man accused of threatening to kill people at Sylvester Park in Pasco was ordered sent to Eastern State Hospital for a mental health evaluation.
Justin Paul Wilson of Pasco is charged with felony harassment. He was set to enter a plea to the case, but instead was ordered held at the Medical Lake facility while psychiatrists and psychologists determine if he is competent to proceed to trial.
The case returns to court Aug. 17 for a status check.
Pasco police were called to the park at 12:30 p.m. June 24 for reports of someone making threats.
A 51-year-old woman told officers she was at the park with family and friends. The group were sitting on a bench facing the playground equipment when one of them "felt somebody brush up against his back as they walked past," according to court documents.
The man turned to find Wilson standing next to him.
Wilson then told him, "I'm going to kill the kid, and then I'm going to kill all of you," documents said.
Wilson allegedly pointed at a 3-year-old boy who was with the group, frightening them.
As the group walked away and talked about calling police, Wilson reportedly said, "Go ahead and call the cops. F--- the cops" and "gave them the finger," documents said.
Wilson is being held on $25,000 bail.
* Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org