The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 16, 2013

Romanian princess indicted in sweep of Northwest cockfighting ring

SEATTLE — A woman described as a princess in the Romanian royal family was arrested in Oregon as part of a sweep of a cockfighting ring that allegedly held “derbies” staged by her and her husband at their ranch, federal prosecutors said.

Irina Walker, 60, and her husband, John Wesley Walker, 67, were among 18 people indicted and arrested Thursday in Oregon and Washington on charges connected to cockfighting as well as operating an illegal gambling operation, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The Swiss-born Irina Walker is the middle daughter of King Michael I and Queen Anne of Romania, the fifth in line to the throne, the Oregonian newspaper reported. The royal family still owns four castles in the former Soviet-bloc country. Her father abdicated the throne in 1947; the country is now run by democratically elected officials.

In the statement released Thursday, the U.S. attorney for Oregon, Amanda Marshall, called cockfighting a “barbaric practice” that is illegal in all 50 states.

Prosecutors described cockfighting as a blood sport with roosters that are surgically altered, trained and conditioned for fighting, and are forced to take vitamins and supplements that boost their strength and endurance.

The birds — with knives or other sharp instruments attached to their legs — were pitted against each other in a fight to the death as spectators watched, prosecutors said. There was even a concession stand where food and drinks were sold.

The fight doesn’t end, prosecutors said, until one of the gamecocks is killed or refuses to continue. “If not killed during the fight, the losing rooster is almost always killed after the fight,” prosecutors said in the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that 10 such fights, called derbies, were held on Walker’s property in Irrigon, Ore., near the state’s Washington border.

Walker and her husband were charged along with four others of operating an illegal gambling business, in addition to charges of conducting unlawful cockfighting ventures, prosecutors said. All 18 are set to be arraigned in federal court Friday in Oregon and Washington.

If convicted on all counts, Walker and her husband could face several years of prison time and millions of dollars in fines, and would have to forfeit the property where the fights were held, prosecutors said.

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©2013 Los Angeles Times

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