06/08/2014 11:49AM

Court dismisses indictment against Penn National trainer Webb


A U.S. District Court judge has ordered that an indictment against a Pennsylvania trainer be dismissed, citing flaws in the government’s case alleging an intent to fix races.

The judge, William Caldwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ordered the case dismissed on June 5 after the attorney for the trainer, Samuel Webb, argued that the federal government had not proved several central points in its case, which relied on alleged violations of the federal Interstate Wire Act.

Webb was one of three trainers based at Penn National indicted by the federal government late last year. The indictment stated that the trainers had allegedly given illegal substances to horses or intended to give illegal substances to horses as part of what the indictment claimed was a scheme to fix horse races.

In his ruling, Caldwell said the indictment against Webb did not contain any evidence that the trainer had actually bet on any of horses that had been given illegal substances or urged anyone else to bet on any of the horses.

The other trainers are Patricia Rogers and David Wells, who trained Rapid Redux, the recipient of a Special Eclipse Award in 2011 after the horse won 19 races in a row that year. Both Rogers and Wells have been granted continuances delaying their trials until later this summer. The indictments against both trainers allege substantially the same violations, under the same legal reasoning, as the Webb indictment.

In the case of Webb and Rogers, the government said that investigators had observed both trainers in the stalls of individual horses while in possession of “hypodermic syringes, needles, and bottles of medication.” The horses trained by Webb and Rogers were scratched from the races after the investigators observed the two trainers, meaning no money was ever lost or won on the horses.

Attorneys familiar with horse racing cases had said after the indictments were released that the government would have a difficult time proving its case if the horses in question did not run, since violations under the Wire Act require the “use” of interstate betting systems. The attorneys also said that the violations in the indictments were state matters, outside of federal jurisdiction.

In the case of Wells, the government indictment stated that he “for several years up to and including February 2012, would routinely inject prohibited substances into horses he trained and other horses he both trained and owned.” The indictment did not cite any specific horses or specific instances in which drugs were administered to horses.

All three trainers were suspended by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission after they were arrested at the track in late November 2013.