The members of a vigilante organization known as Animal Recovery Mission alerted police to an illegal cockfighting ring. Members of the organization surrounding the cockfighting facility dressed in black and wearing masks. TV reporters had already arrived at the scene. As police came, members of the cockfighting ring scattered. Members of the group attempted to block cockfighting enthusiasts in. Altercations ensued. The group hoped that those attending and running the ring would be charged with felonies and shut down. But five months after the incident with police, prosecutors have dropped charges against those caught at the scene.
The question, of course, is why?
According to prosecutors, lawmakers took serious issue with the group’s tactics which seem to include antagonizing and refusing to work with police, dragging cockfighting enthusiasts out of the bushes, and, in general, causing a major ruckus. In other words, prosecutors did not want to encourage the organization, known as ARM, from conducting these sorts of undercover operations again, so they let those that they did catch off on all the charges.
Who are ARM?
ARM is an organization founded by Richard Couto that attempts to investigate allegations of animal abuse. According to their mission statement, they are a non-profit organization whose primary aim is to end cruelty toward animals. The organization, however, implements anarchist-style direct action methods that make police and authorities very nervous. While there are no charges currently filed against the organization, prosecutors describe their methods as “potentially illegal”.
For his part, Couto had called reporters to the scene in anticipation of a major bust but then excoriated police on camera for allowing many members of the cockfighting ring to get away. Couto also claims that his organization is “trained better than law enforcement” has boasts a number of ex-military and ex-police officers in its ranks. He believes that ARM can build “stronger cases” than law enforcement.
After hearing that prosecutors had dropped charges against those apprehended at the cockfighting ring, Couto called the news “alarming” and accused police and prosecutors of lightening their workload.
Couto, the group’s founder, was once a member of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He claims the group has infiltrated at least 25 cockfighting rings over the years.
Despite what prosecutors say, Couto’s tactics have occasionally proven effective. His work uncovered a slew of cockfighting rings in the Miami-Dade rural region known as the C-9 Basin forcing local police to set up a task force to curb the illegal and inhuman practice of cockfighting.
On the other hand, ARM’s tactics have made it more difficult for prosecutors to get convictions when ARM is involved.
In one case, defendant Rudy Acosta faced up to 85 years for running an illegal slaughterhouse but defense attorneys targeted ARM, their tactics, and potential chain of custody problems. There are also civil rights abuses to consider. Acosta ended up getting off with 10 years of probation
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