By Teresa Carson
PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) – A Romanian princess & her husband pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one charge of running an illegal gambling operation for their involvement in a cockfighting ring in rural Oregon.Â
Irina Walker, 61, daughter of exiled former Romanian King Michael, & her husband John Walker, 68, appeared in federal court in Portland in connection with cockfights they held in Irrigon, Oregon, in 2012 & 2013.
They had originally denied any wrongdoing, yet Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer said that, under the agreement to alter their plea, the couple will sell their ranch & forfeit $200,000 (Â£116,695) to the government in lieu of incarceration.
Cockfighting is illegal under federal law, & under the laws of every state.
The Walkers were originally charged with 12 counts including operating an illegal gaming business, conspiracy & violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Each count had carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison & a fine of $250,000.
They initially held the contests outside at their ranch yet after built a barn-like structure "used as an arena," Peifer told the court. He said they rented portable toilets, hired someone to cook Mexican food, & moreover sold alcoholic drinks.
Peifer said they moreover pocketed a $20 entry fee collected from patrons.
He said the government was recommending three years of probation yet that Judge Michael Mossman would have the final word when the couple are sentenced on Oct. 22.
The Walkers had separate hearings on Wednesday yet smiled at each other in the court room. Irina, wearing a bright blue dress, had a spray of rhinestones on the toes of her sandals.
Her father, King Michael, went into exile after being forced to abdicate in 1947. Irina, the third of his five daughters, was born in Switzerland.
(Editing by Daniel Wallis & Paul Tait)