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Friday, 14 October 2016 16:50

Gary case: Government sought stiffer sentences, family sought leniency

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The United States Attorney’s Office pushed for more stringent sentencing in the case of a Roanoke Rapids family charged with dogfighting while family members and friends asked for leniency.

The letters requesting leniency, which are contained in the federal court record, specifically addressed the case of Zhaqwaun Gary, the son of Elton and Erica Gary.
Letters supporting Zhaqwaun Gary portrayed a loyal friend and devoted father.
Motions filed Wednesday by the government, however, portrayed a man and his family who were immersed in the bloody world of dogfighting.
The letters were part of his attorney’s motion requesting “the sentence ultimately imposed should be the least restrictive necessary.”
His lawyer, Renorda Pryor, submitted the motions, along with the letters Thursday, the day the younger Gary and his parents were sentenced for operating a dogfighting ring off Stack Powell Road in the Roanoke Rapids area.
The younger Gary, 22, could have face up to 5 years in prison while his parents, Elton and Erica, could have faced up to 10 years in prison.
Elton Gary was sentenced to 72 months of federal prison time and 10 years of supervised release.
Erica Gary got five years of supervised release with 120 days of imprisonment.
Zhaqwaun Gary received three years of supervised release and six months imprisonment.

Government’s contentions

John Brice, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asked for an upward variance on the sentencing based on the length of the family’s history with game dogs, operation of a kennel and dogfighting.
He also asked for stiffer sentencing for what he described as the extraordinary cruelty to an animal, resulting in maiming, and other serious injuries to animals recovered from the defendant’s property in April of 2013.
Referencing Zhaqwaun, Brice wrote in the motion, “The defendant has a tattoo in honor of the kennel that he and his co-defendant father, and others ran, Square Biz Kennels.”
He said when Halifax County Sheriff’s Office deputies and officers seized historical records relating to game dogs, the younger Gary admitted he owned the records belonging to one of the dogs. “Additionally, when deputies were called to the property, the defendant was covered in canine blood and tried to interfere with the investigation by claiming that it was hog’s blood. He also admitted that he owned all of the dogs.”
Prior to sentencing, investigators located a game dog belonging to Gary, the ownership of which violated his pretrial release conditions. “Additionally, the property owner stated that the defendant would visit the dog frequently, which also violated … pretrial release
Veterinary records relating to the condition of the American pit bull terriers seized on the property show several severe injuries to the animals associated with dogfighting, the motion says.

The following gallery contains photos of some of the evidence seized as well as a couple of diagrams of injuries sustained by the dogs

Search warrant service

On April 7 of 2013, federal court documents say, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office
served a search warrant at Stack Powell Road where dogs, milk, liquid soap, sponge, syringes, needles, medicines, scales, dog sling collar, supplements, wooden pen, carpeting, slat mill and numerous documents were seized.
The milk, Dawn dish soap and sponge are often used with water to wash the fighting dogs prior to placing them in the fighting pit. Both fighting dogs are washed by a neutral party in the presence of the dog owners and handlers. The fighting dogs are washed to avoid the possibility of cheating.
Forty-four single registration applications were seized including several from Bona Fide Kennel Club, a registration service based in Weldon which is tied to the Mims bloodline.
Thirty-four of the registrations referenced dogfighting, court records show.
Different sporting dog journals were seized including Game Dog Digest; Your Friend and Mine and Sporting Dog Journal.
A photograph contained handwritten notes referring to a dog named Pocket Hercules, also known as Scarlet.
The written notes were as follows:
“Won at 33 lbs over a Red Boy cross from Durrant C. Ham.”
"Scarlet bulldozed her opponent all over the pit ..."
"Scarlet worked a dog down who started singing until the match was conceded at 27 minutes."
"Won at 32 lbs over Durrant C. Ham who used a vicious face fighter picked just to beat Scarlet."
"This bitch named Home Girl was a hard biting dead game sister to Millbuster's CH. Homie." "For one hour and one minute they went at it with no tum or out of hold counts."
"Scarlet took unbelievable punishment to the face. but she gradually broke down Home Girl showing the phenomenal power that was her trademark."
"At l:01 the match was conceded..."
"Neither bitch survived this grueling contest in spite of excellent veterinary care."
"Home Girl died right away and Scarlet was euthanized nine days later due to extensive facial damage."


Noted veterinarian Melinda Merck, who has been involved in some of the most well-known animal fighting cases, including the Michael Vick case, wrote, “The scar, wounds and injury patterns on all of these dogs are consistent with dogfighting. The pattern is on the face, head, ears, chest, neck, shoulders, front legs, hind legs, feet and hind quarter regions. There may be scars, wounds or injuries to one or more of these areas depending on how often the dog has
been fought.”
Two of the dogs, Merck noted, sustained orthopedic injuries.
One pitbull had a severely painful injury to the right front wrist bone and joint region consistent with a bite resulting in severe infection that was draining out through the skin.
Another dog had a prior jaw injury resulting in misalignment. “It is not unusual for the dog to sustain injuries to the teeth, mouth, jaw and/or teeth during a fight. The lip can become impaled on the dog's own canine tooth or the opposing dog can bite through the lip,” Merck wrote.
Merck wrote break sticks are commonly used by inserting it in the dog's mouth during the fight to force their jaw open to release the opponent. “This can cause trauma to the mouth and teeth. lt is not uncommon to see broken or worn teeth in fighting dogs. This may be due to fighting related injuries or from chewing on hard objects such as the chain tethers.”
The medications and supplies found in the shed included injectable antibiotics; injectable medication to treat for pain, inflammation and/or shock; syringes and needles; and wound treatment supplies. “These medication and supplies indicate an expectation of injuries, pain and/or shock conditions. There were also performance enhancing vitamins found in the shed. Performance enhancing supplements are commonly used in dogfighting.”
Out of the 17 dogs examined one was emaciated, 12 were very thin to thin, and only four were
lean to ideal body condition scores. Five of the dogs required medical treatment with one of those requiring hospitalization.
Eight of the dogs had infection, inflammation or painful medical conditions.

Letters for leniency

In one letter to the court, Bria Lynch wrote, “I believe there is a huge misconception of character here in this clouded situation. Zhaqwaun Gary is a young man that has a very good heart. I have known him since he was 16 years old and he has grown into a respectable, hard working man over the years we have been together. He has helped many friends that were less fortunate growing up even let them stay with him, gave them clothes, and feed them.”
Lynch wrote, “He would truly give the clothes off his back with no second thought. To me he is my rock and I don't know where I'd be without this man. More than anything he is my ultimate friend and has always been right there in times of need. We now share a beautiful baby girl that he has been actively involved with since the day she was born. He helps hugely with providing for her and his oldest son.”
Lynch continued, “Apart from the awesome person that Zhaqwaun is he also takes pride in being a great father to his kids. So, to take such a fine individual from his children and loved ones would be a huge mistake.”

Uncle and family letters

Lewis Powell, the younger Gary’s uncle, wrote, “Mr. Gary is a hard-working individual who makes sure he keeps a job, a young man who believes in family and putting family first. He is a good father to his two kids and plays a vital role in their life. I have watched him grow from a kid to a young man who is determined to make something out of his life and I know that’s his goal to be better than he was yesterday. Growth is what I see in my nephew.”
Venezzia Gary wrote the younger Gary, “Is my favorite person in the world, we are exactly 13 months apart so we've always been close, stuck to each other like glue. Though he have made mistakes he is not a threat to society nor will he ever put anyone in harm’s way. He's a young man growing, he has two kids that he loves to death! His time is spent at work and with his kids.
“This situation has pushed him to do better, we're a tight knitted family so for us to be divided like we have been hurt us all and brought us all to our senses. If we all could take things back and do it again I am 150 percent positive we all would. People make mistakes, some people learn from them, some don't, We have!”

Letter from son’s mother

“Though Zhaqwaun and I are not in a relationship, we are cordial for the best interest of our son. We communicate as often as possible to uphold a healthy co-parenting relationship in order to make sure that Thailon’s needs are met.”
Thomas said in the letter, “Thailon knows his father very well and loves him dearly. He likes to spend time with him as often as possible. Thailon really thinks a great deal of his father and vice versa. Zhaqwaun takes pride in being a father and shows the affection and love that lots of fathers don’t.”
Thomas said, “Whenever Thailon looks at his dad you know it’s nothing but admiration and fondness. With everything in me, I encourage Zhaqwaun to be the best father that he can be and it would be pleasant to see him with the opportunity to be that father to his children as they grow and learn — just as he has and will continue to do. His children mean everything to him and being able to be a part of their growth would mean so much to him and would mean even more to them.
“I do believe that Zhaqwaun is a good person and with the opportunity to be physically available, not only will it help financially with raising his children but also prevent the emotional challenges and hardships that it could cause.”


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