San Juan Capistrano
On August 24-25, 2002 the 2nd Annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo was held on the outskirts of San Juan Capistrano. The rodeo was produced by Cotton Rosser’s Flying U Rodeo Company, which is affiliated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA). Two SHARK investigators attended the rodeo and secretly videotaped the repeated use of electric shock to force animals to perform – a violation of California state law.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has declined to prosecute either Cotton Rosser or his horse-zapping employee, Seth Ryan "Shorty" Gorham. The reason given? "Not enough evidence," according to Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Henderson.
Interestingly, the video footage was more than enough evidence for the Orange County Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles area television news stations, who widely played the footage over several days. Even more interesting is the fact that Flying U owner Cotton Rosser is prominent in one video clip, obviously watching as one of the horses is being shocked. So why is the Orange County District Attorney refusing to take action?
A look at public records regarding political contributions to District Attorney Rackauckas’ re-election campaign may help to clear up the mystery as to why he has chosen to reject an open and shut case against flagrant animal abusers.
According to campaign contribution records from the Orange County Registrar of Voters Office, many of the SJC Rodeo sponsors contributed to Mr. Rackauckas' campaign --including nearly $1000 from Gloria Brandes, owner of Blenheim Equestrian Center, the venue where the rodeo was held, and over $600 from husband R.J. Brandes' executive assistant Merry Wong.
Here is a partial list of other individuals who are fans of Rackauckas and Rodeo and are willing to put big bucks behind both:
- Whispering Hills Development Company $1000
- Steven Briggs, owner of Briggs Electric $1000
- Capistrano Ford, owner Brian Beeman $500
- Allen Packing Company $1000
- Robert W. Rohe, owner of Shur-Lok $500
- Hunsaker & Associates $250
It is difficult to determine exactly how much money rodeo supporters have funneled into Rackauckas' campaign coffers as the records seem to indicate that some questionable accounting is practiced by the Rackauckas Campaign. As contributions appear in the records, past contributions by the same individual or company often disappear. It is hard to imagine that these financial slights of hand happen for any other reason than to obfuscate just how much money is donated by enthusiastic high rollers who want to contribute more than the legal campaign contribution limit.
District Attorney Rackauckas has failed to respond to letters, faxes, phone calls or E-mails requesting further explanation regarding his highly questionable prosecutorial decision. If he does, we will post it on this site.
You can view the video evidence for yourself.
In this scene you see two men behind the bucking horse, and one in front on horseback. The man on horseback is Cotton Rosser, owner of the Flying U rodeo company. The rodeo clown in the green shirt is Seth Ryan "Shorty" Gorham. Mr. Gorham is using a device to shoot the bucking horse with over 5,000 volts of painful electricity. The device has the desired effect, and the horse bucks.
Besides being obviously cruel, shocking rodeo animals to make them "perform" is illegal. Both Mr. Rosser and Mr. Gorham know it. That's why Mr. Gorham tries to hide it. The question is -- why does Cotton Rosser do nothing about it?
In fact, Mr. Rosser's rodeos are often filmed shocking animals. Reno Rosser (Cotton Rosser's son) has also been filmed using the illegal electric shock.
Rodeo clown Seth Ryan "Shorty" Gorham again violates California State law by shocking a horse, and as before, he attempts to hide it.
Using the electricity to force animals to "perform" also violates the humane rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). However, these rules exist for public relations purposes only.
SHARK documents clear and obvious humane violations at PRCA rodeos all the time. To our knowledge the PRCA has never punished a member for violating humane rules documented by SHARK.
Perhaps you will consider contacting Mr. Rackauckas or his deputy Elizabeth Henderson. Ask them to either do their jobs, or quit masquerading as law enforcement. You may contact these "public servants" as follows:
SHARK encourages Deputy D.A. Henderson and District Attorney Rackauckas to comment on this issue if they disagrees with our portrayal. If they do so, we will post the comments, unedited, in their entirety.
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