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New Trial to Begin in Boynton Beach Dogfighting Case

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Defense attorneys point out that the state's case is still weak without witnesses. Willbur equates the new statutes to laws that deal with head shops and drug paraphernalia: It's legal to make, buy, or sell a glass pipe that could potentially be used for illegal narcotics because it could also be used for, say, tobacco. "It's what the user does with it that makes it illegal, not the bong itself," Willbur says.

Two years with charges hanging over their heads seems to have taken a toll on the defendants. Paul Green had to move out of the neighborhood where he's lived his entire life. "Boynton Beach is a small town," says his attorney, Pasche. "Everybody is everybody's cousin. Dogfighting has been a scarlet letter." Furthermore, with felony charges pending, Green was suspended without pay from the sanitation job he'd held for 17 years. "To have that kind of stigma wrongfully associated, it has absolutely affected every part of every day of his life. All for a case that ultimately came back deadlocked."

On a Sunday morning in late September of this year — nearly two years to the day since the raids — Liz Roehrich was driving around the neighborhood where this whole thing started. She passed the house where Green used to live. Then Ricky Norfus' mother's house, down the street. Then Sam Denson's house, which has been painted orange since the arrests. Though there don't appear to be any pit bulls on the property, there is still a "Beware of Dog" sign on the fence.

She says that since the very public arrests, the problems with dogfighting in Boynton Beach are essentially gone. "This is a result of good, solid police work we started doing in the '90s and neighborhoods taking responsibility," she said. "No matter what they like to say, we didn't start investigating when Michael Vick got arrested."

Of all the personal accusations in this case, Roehrich, who is white, says the one that bothers her the most is Willbur's suggestion that she is racist. "I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body!" she declares.

Willbur maintains that his client and his friends never fought any dogs. "As a matter of fact," he says, "the only people we can see hurting any dogs in this case at all was the City of Boynton Beach, because they euthanized every one of them." In December 2007, three months after the dogs were seized, a county veterinarian put down all 15 dogs.

But in one way, their legacy lives on. A breeding chart found in Denson's pickup truck showed that, just days before the raid, Coffee, the badly scarred female, had been bred with Pain, the male with scars on his face and paws. Nearly two months after the arrests, Coffee gave birth to a litter of adorable young pit bulls. There was no problem adopting out all six. They were soft, sprawling, cuddly little pups; and according to their breeding documents, they're all the progeny of champions.

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Michael J. Mooney