Former Television Reporter Fined $20,000 for Staged Dogfights
Oct. 04, 1991
GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) _ A former television reporter was fined $20,000 today for staging a dogfight for a series of stories during ratings ''sweeps'' week last year.
The lawyer for Wendy Bergen said he will appeal the sentence because the dogs were muzzled during the fight for which she was held responsible.
Bergen, an Emmy-winning reporter for television station KCNC, was convicted Aug. 7 of staging a dogfight, being an accessory to a crime and conspiring to commit dogfighting.
She could have faced a maximum 10 years in prison and $300,000 in fines.
Christopher Munch, a Jefferson County district judge, said he decided against a more severe sentence because Bergen has no criminal record and is unlikely to commit a crime again.
He gave her the option of paying $12,000 of her $20,000 fine to an animal rights group and gave her 90 days to complete 100 hours of community service.
Bergen, 35, resigned from KCNC in September 1990 about the time she was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury.
She was silent during the hearing, except to thank Munch for his courtesy.
Afterward, she said, ''I'm just glad it's over.''
Bergen was accused of arranging two dogfights for a four-part series called ''Blood Sport,'' then lying about it to a grand jury. Dogfighting is illegal in Colorado.
The reports ran in April and May 1990 during ''sweeps'' week, when ratings for television stations are measure to help set advertising rates.
Prosecutor Ray Sharpe claimed Bergen tried to get genuine footage of pit bulls fighting, but when the efforts failed, she wanted the story badly enough to pay money to set up fights.
Bergen was acquitted of six more serious charges against her, including perjury.
Sharpe said he was satisfied with the sentence.
The staged dogfights came to light May 2, 1990, when Rocky Mountain News TV critic Dusty Saunders reported that he had learned dogfighting footage used with the series was taped by KCNC cameramen, then mailed anonymously to the station.
As the investigation unfolded, Mark Labriola, who helped Bergen set up dogfights for filming, became the chief prosecution witness in exchange for immunity.
Labriola wore a hidden microphone on several occasions to tape his conversations with Bergen. The tapes were played at her trial.
KCNC photographers Jim Stair and Scott Wright, who filmed the dogfights, also were charged in the case, but they made deals with prosecutors and received probation. In return, they testified at Bergen's trial.