Impeachment of Illinois governor did not surprise SHARK
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2009:
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois–When the Illinois Senate impeached
governor Rod Blagojevich for abuse of power on January 29, 2009, by
a vote of 59-0, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve
Hindi could say “I told you so.” Hindi had accused the Blagojevich
administration of corruption via the SHARK web site since July 2006.
Hindi fingered Blagojevich himself and senior officials at
the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Illinois State Police,
and the office of the Illinois State’s Attorney after they refused to
prosecute cruelty to animals captured on videotape by SHARK
investigators at the 2006 Illinois High School Rodeo Association
finals in Springfield, the Illinoi state capital.
“The abuse included extensive use of the electric prod.
Animals were secretly stuck with sharp wires and other pointed
objects. Calves were jerked down. Small goats were run over by
1,200-pound horses,” Hindi recounted, “in an event called ‘Goat
Tying,’ in which a girl on a galloping horse approaches a tethered
goat. She jumps off the horse, throws the tethered goat down, and
ties his legs. It’s a little like tackling someone who is already in
“Besides the abuse of bucking straps, intense spurring, and
regular use of electric prods,” Hindi continued, “horses were
regularly hit in the face to make them exit the chutes. Sand was
deliberately thrown in the eyes of some animals. Twisting and
pulling tails, explicitly banned by the Illinois Department of
Agriculture, was allowed. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of
injuries among the victims.”
Hindi thought SHARK had ample evidence to support criminal
charges. The Springfield State Journal-Register editorialists,
cartoonist, and staff writer Bruce Rushton appeared to be convinced,
even though the State Journal-Register co-sponsored the rodeo. But
no charges were filed. “Please contact Governor Blagojevich’s
office,” Hindi urged. “The crooks in Illinois government won’t do
the right thing, at least not without a lot of help from us. ”
Hindi recalled that “In 2000 a spokesperson for then-
governor George Ryan suggested that I was an ‘extreme activist’ when
we demanded action against the high school rodeo thugs. The governor
tried to paint me, and by association SHARK, as criminals. George
Ryan has since been indicted, tried and convicted of corruption in
federal court,” receiving a six-year prison sentence for graft.
Blagojevich was impeached 18 days after New Mexico governor
Bill Richardson declined to pursue nomination to become U.S.
Secretary of Commerce, because, Richardson said, “a pending
investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico
state government…would have forced an untenable delay in the
“Like Blagojevich, Richardson is a big supporter of rodeo,”
Hindi recalled, whose efforts “to try to make rodeo the official
sport of New Mexico” cost taxpayers as much as $16 million in state
funding and tax incentives.
Blagojevich and Richardson are only two of the biggest names
among prominent rodeo backers and promoters whom SHARK has recently
“outed” for alleged unethical acts going beyond those in the arena.
Another was former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
commissioner Troy Ellerman, who in 2007 lost the job and his license
to practice law, and drew a 30-month prison sentence for leaking
grand jury testimony in connection with the ongoing BALCO steroids
abuse case involving numerous major league baseball players.
Hindi argues that receiving peer approval for abusing animals
in the rodeo ring helps to condition rodeo performers to handle human
relationships in a similar manner.
Cases detailed at the SHARK web site include those of former
pro bull riders Zeb Lanham and Billy Ray Byrd. Lanham, 24, of
Sweet, Idaho, pleaded guilty on December 21, 2008 to felony
domestic violence, after battering his pregnant girlfriend on
November 3, 2008. Byrd in May 2004 shot his wife, 11 days after
she won a temporary restraining order against him for alleged
domestic violence. She survived. Byrd drew 16 years in prison for
multiple related offenses.
While researching the SHARK postings, Hindi and SHARK
colleagues Janet Enoch and Michael Kobliska learned that cases of
sexual predation on minors by rodeo sponsors and instructors appear
to be at least as frequent as cases brought against performers for
violent acts. They posted details of several recent convictions and
other cases still before courts.
The most blatant such case allegedly occurred in an
improvised bull ring during a festival at Hueytlalpan, Puebla state,
Mexico, on November 29, 2008. Master of ceremonies Leonardo Julian
Hidalgo was reportedly charged with corrupting minors and public
indecency for inducing two boys, 12 and 13, to strip in front of
the crowd for rewards of about $11 U.S.