ST. PAUL, Neb. (KSNB) - Four of the 10 suspects arrested for cockfighting in December are headed to trial court.

Martin Montelongo and Ernest Ceballos Lopez of Grand Island, Ruben Meza Puentes of Wood River and Angel Gutierrez of Chapman each waived evidence hearings in Howard County Court. A judge then transferred the four cases to Howard County District Court for arraignment March 24.

At an arraignment hearing, a suspect typically enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the cases advance to trial, it would be held in district court.

The other six suspects, Eduardo Alcantar, Jose Reyes Jimenez, Jorge Rodriguez, Jesus Serrano Sanchez, and Victor Mora, all of Grand Island, and Gustavo Renteria Garcia of Palmer, all have evidence hearings scheduled in either March or April.

Each of the ten suspects is charged with cockfighting, which is a felony. Under Nebraska law it carries max penalties of three years in prison and 18 months probation or a $10,000 fine, or both.

State statutes define cockfighting to include promoting, working at or witnessing a cock fight. The crime also includes animals being made to fight each other, which can include dogs, chickens and bearbaiting. According to online dictionary definitions, bearbaiting is the practice of one or more dogs attacking a chained bear.

The Howard County Sheriff arrested the 10 men on Dec. 17 at a rural location about 15 miles north of Grand Island.

Howard County Sheriff Tom Busch said deputies received a 911 call about illegal gambling activity involving roosters in rural Howard County and investigated the report, along with Nebraska Games and Parks officers. A search warrant was obtained for the property.

He said deputies found seven roosters, one of which later died from injuries during one of the fights. He said the roosters were taken to an off-site location, where they will be cared for until the court cases are over and they get guidance on what’s to be done with them.