PORTLAND — Princess Irina Walker, the daughter of the last king of Romania, was hobnobbing two years ago with European royalty in Bucharest for the 90th birthday of her regal father.
On Friday, she and her husband, a former sheriff’s deputy, appeared in federal court to face charges of running a cockfighting business on their ranch in rural Eastern Oregon. Both pleaded not guilty and were released pending trial.
Government prosecutors say Irina and John Walker staged at least 10 cockfighting derbies between April 2012 and April 2013, bringing in as much as $2,000 a day. Blades were attached to the birds’ legs, spectators were charged admission, and food and drink were sold, the indictment said.
Irina Walker, 60, is the third daughter of former Romanian King Michael I. Michael, 91, one of the few surviving heads of state from World War II, was forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947. Sent into exile, he lived in Switzerland and worked as a commercial pilot and briefly as a chicken farmer.
On the royal family’s website, the former king expressed “deep sorrow” about Princess Irina’s being arrested and hopes that the American justice system and Oregon courts will act as quickly as possible. He did not mention his son-in-law and added that he hopes the presumption of innocence will function.
The Walkers are charged with operating an illegal gambling business and conspiracy to violate the federal Animal Welfare Act. Each of the offenses carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the ranch.
Authorities arrested 16 other people in the case.
Irina Walker moved to the U.S. from Switzerland in 1983 with her then-husband John Kreuger, according to her daughter, Angelica Kreuger of Myrtle Point, Ore. She said her parents were school friends in Europe and her father fell in love with Oregon.
Never a particularly sociable person, Irina Walker rode horses, gardened, studied the Bible and raised two children in Myrtle Point. She later divorced her husband and, in 2007, married a man who had been a family friend and neighbor — former Coos County sheriff’s deputy John Walker.
Kreuger said John Walker took her mother to Eastern Oregon.
She said she warned her mother about John Walker, whom she called “bad news,” but her mother didn’t want to believe it. She said Walker made her mother feel beautiful and special, and her mother would do anything he said.
Kreuger said she has been to the Hermiston area a couple times and never saw a fighting chicken. She doesn’t believe her mother knew the full extent of what was allegedly going on, and wouldn’t have gotten caught up in such a thing if she knew the potential for a jail sentence.
“I don’t see her being there watching it, because my mom loved animals,” she said. “She wouldn’t want to watch a chicken die like that.”
Judge John V. Acosta allowed her to return home until trial, tentatively set for October. He ordered her to surrender her passport and not to leave her home county, except to go to nearby Hermiston for groceries and doctor appointments.
“Don’t stop at a greeting-card store; don’t go to the movies,” he warned.
The princess is to receive an electronic monitoring bracelet Monday.