TAMPA: Dog Fighting Trial in the Hands of a Hillsborough County Jury

According to a story in today’s St. Pete Times, six (6) jurors deliberated for more than two (2) hours Wednesday afternoon but went home for the evening before deciding whether 49-year-old Maurice Bayless bred and trained pit bulls to fight.

To me, the first thing that came to mind after reading this story was NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his involvement in a similar dog fighting ring that landed him in a Federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas for almost two (2) years.

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A Tampa jury will continue to deliberate today and possibly decide Bayless’ fate.

For two (2) days, this Tampa jury looked at photos of filthy, chained and wounded pit bulls. Eight (8) puppies and ten (10) adult dogs were seized from his home. All older dogs were deemed too aggressive for adoption and were euthanized.

On a video, jurors saw one lunging at another and a man saying, “Go get him.”

Assistant State Attorney Natalia Silver told them that man was Bayless, and that he exercised his pit bulls to exhaustion in hopes of making them champions, pumped them with nutrients and drugs to make them strong, and forced them to breed so he could sell future fighters.

Defense attorney Mark Rodriguez, however, told them prosecutors did not prove any of it — not that the dogs were wounded while in Bayless’ care, not that the puppies were products of a champion fighting bloodline.

“The state can’t prove a thing that Mr. Bayless did or did not do with any of the animals that were found on his property,” he said.

Evidence the state presented as proof of dogfighting was, on its own, legal. But it was the state’s burden to prove Bayless’ intent to use it illegally.

Jurors saw weighted collars prosecutors said were used in rigorous training regimens and surgical tools they said Bayless used to stitch up dogs after fights.

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Could the collars have been used to tire and calm aggressive dogs? The tools used to legally clip dogs’ ears? Rodriguez, as defense attorneys always do, tried to cast reasonable doubt on the State’s case.

In another interesting part of the trial, jurors saw a tattoo on Bayless’ arm depicting a dog and the words, “scratch to win.”

A lottery reference, the defense attorney posed.

Marine lingo, Bayless’ twin brother, Michael, said.

Jurors saw blood sport magazines and records of fights. Rodriguez noted some of it was a decade old and said it was just “ancient history” strewn about a messy house.

But Silver responded, “We covet what we keep, and that is what this is about.”

“Yeah, it started a long time ago,” she said. “But there is no evidence that it ever stopped.”

Regardless of whether Bayless if found Guilty of these charges, what is plainly clear is that these dogs suffered. And, as a dog lover, that’s a shame.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Florida, the Clearwater-based Blake & Dorsten, P.A. is on your side. Former State of Florida Prosecutor Nicholas J. Dorsten handles all criminal and traffic-related mattters throughout the Tampa Bay area (as well as select cases throughout the State of Florida).

If your case requires an experienced and aggressive defense, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. will be there for you.

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For more information, please visit www.blakedorstenlaw.com or contact the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. at 727.286.6141.

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