02/23/2010 12:00AM

Finding escape from difficult situations


TUCSON, Ariz. - There are numerous ways to try to extricate yourself from almost any uncomfortable situation, and in recent days we have seen some creative ones.

In a federal court on Long Island, a man named David Brooks is fighting to escape prison on charges of corporate fraud. This is not the first time Brooks has been in the public eye.

Protective vests used in Iraq and manufactured by his companies drew media attention a few years ago. He made every tabloid in New York with a party for his daughter's 13th birthday that cost millions, with some of the country's top bands hired to entertain. He pointed out there was no crime in making or spending money, and he was very good at both.

He and his family also own the most successful stable in harness racing history, an outfit called Bulletproof Enterprises, which sent out winners of an all-time harness record of more than $10 million last year. The Bulletproof horses were trained by a young lady named Tracy Brainard, who produced stakes winners with incredible regularity, including four of the best pacing fillies in the world. Her assistant trainer was asked to leave the Delaware Fairgrounds in Ohio, scene of the classic Little Brown Jug, and was persona non grata elsewhere. There have been rumors and suspicions expressed about the phenomenal success of the Brooks horses, but no positive tests.

On Jan. 26, the Ontario Racing Commission ordered the immediate suspension of all Brooks family licenses in the province. The United States Trotting Association quickly followed suit on Jan. 28, refusing requests for Brooks family ownership transfers pending investigation of ownership of the horses in question. New York's Racing and Wagering Board took similar action.

Last week, Brooks's brother Jeffrey, currently in command of Bulletproof, went on a shock-and-awe offensive.

He sued the United States Trotting Association, official record-keeping and administrative body of harness racing, its executive vice president, and members of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for $108 million, saying their actions represented "a classic case of guilt by association."

This week the USTA, receiving a formal appeal, stayed its suspension until a hearing before its executive committee March 20.

In a second case of easing out of tight places, this one with a well-planned escape route, the powerful speaker of the New York assembly, Sheldon Silver, showed his political adroitness once again last week.

New York's tabloid media has closed in with unrelenting pressure in recent weeks on Gov. David Paterson's award of the Aqueduct racino to a group of friends and followers. Silver was one of the three Albany powers who signed that document.

But he alone signed with conditions, including that if anyone with questionable records showed up in the winning group, which calls itself Aqueduct Entertainment Group, his approval could be withdrawn.

First a realtor with a past conviction showed up and withdrew from the AEG.

Then the hip-hop musician Jay-Z, a close personal friend of the governor, was revealed to be a 7 percent shareholder, bringing along his probation some years ago for stabbing a rival in a nightclub brawl.

Silver let it be known that he might undo the whole Aqueduct reward by exercising his caveats and refusing to sign a memorandum of understanding that is needed to finalize the deal.

Finally, in New Jersey, new Gov. Chris Christie raised the ire of the moguls of Atlantic City casinos, considered by some a shadow government in the state, by refusing to rule out the possibility of racinos at the state's racetracks. The president of the senate, Stephen M. Sweeney, quickly pointed out that the governor had to get by him on that issue, and he would not let any legislation pass that provided for slots outside of Atlantic City. Racing interests thought the governor, while campaigning, had promised to help their plight, with the only real help being slots at the Meadowlands, Freehold, and Monmouth Park.

Last week, the governor let it be known that he was "disappointed and angered" because he had learned the Thoroughbred and harness organizations in the state had been wasteful or worse in spending government money for lobbying, as much as $40,000 each.

The Press of Atlantic City quickly pointed out that the state's horse racing interests had gone from being favorites to also-rans on the slots issue. It surprised the horse folks to learn they ever had been favorites, but they know all about odds and realized theirs had risen sharply with the governor's temperature and anger.

The moral of all three stories: If you head into tight quarters, have Plan B ready as to how to get out.