01/17/2012 6:27PM

Guerrero testifies before Pa. Racing Commission in attempt to overturn Parx ban


 HARRISBURG, Pa. – Trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero disputed claims that he inappropriately touched a Parx Racing employee last November and his attorney further argued that the track was looking for any reason to evict Guerrero, the leading trainer at that track in 2011 during a hearing Tuesday before the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission.

On Dec. 20, Parx Racing evicted Guerrero for 10 years after he was alleged to have inappropriately touched Stephanie Smith, a 23-year-old bookkeeper for the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, in an office in the administration building on the backside of Parx on Nov. 16. Smith alleged that Guerrero kissed her on the mouth and touched her on the buttocks while hugging her.

Guerrero testified to “playfully patting" Smith on the buttocks, and giving her a hug and a kiss, but denied kissing her on the mouth. He said the two had a relationship where they often hugged and kissed.

Admitted as part of Tuesday’s testimony was a photo of a tattoo on Smith’s stomach that reads: “I was born with an enormous need for affection and a terrible need to give it," which is a quote from the actress Audrey Hepburn.

Guerrero admitted to texting an apology to Smith for “acting like an ass," but testified that the apology was not for improperly touching her, but for ignoring Smith a couple of times when their paths crossed.

Guerrero and Smith both testified in front of a hearing officer, Jackie Lutz, for the Pennsylvania Racing Commission on Tuesday. The hearing officer must file a report, which probably won’t happen for a minimum of seven weeks. In the interim Guerrero, the leading trainer in wins and purse money won at Parx in 2011, will not be allowed to train at that track.

Both Guerrero and Smith testified that Smith once told Guerrero she was his good luck charm and he should hire her to walk around with him and hug him before important races.

Shortly after the Nov. 16 incident, charges of indecent assault were brought against Guerrero but were eventually dropped by the Bucks County District Attorney on Jan. 5. Still, Parx officials have decided to enforce the 10-year ban, believing Guerrero was a potential threat to all women on the backside of the track.

Parx attorney Andrew Kramer brought in the former jockey Carey Kifer, who testified that twice in 2010 when she was riding at Parx, Guerrero sexually assaulted her in his barn office. Kifer, who flew in from Florida to testify, never reported the incidents to Parx Racing officials or the police.

At one point in her testimony, Kifer broke down in tears, looked over at Guerrero, who was sitting just a few feet away, and said “I do hate you."

Guerrero testified that he never assaulted Kifer, and after the hearing William Goldman, the attorney representing Guerrero, said Kifer’s claims “are complete and total lies and they never happened. This is a vindictive person coming back trying to destroy the reputation and character of Juan Carlos Guerrero."

Goldman also claims that Parx officials were trying to evict Guerrero and pointed to a conflict in testimony from Shawn Knowles, a Bucks County detective investigating Smith’s charges, and Lance Morell, a director of security for Parx, as proof.

Morell claims that he never spoke with Knowles about this case, despite knowing Knowles for 20 years.

Knowles said he gave Morell a courtesy call and was “taken aback" by “how pleased he was we were targeting Mr. Guerrero. He told me Mr. Guerrero had won a couple of million dollars [in purses] and he had tested his horses and his horses have come up clean. He tested his horses for masking agents and his horses come up clean."

Further, Knowles testified that Morell told him “he’s glad we’re going to get this guy."

“And after Det. Knowles testified under oath . . . you didn’t hear Mr. Morell or anybody take the stand to rebut that," Goldman said.

But during cross-examination, Morell was asked by Goldman if he recalled saying, “I’m happy it’s him. He’s been a target of ours."

Morell said:  “Absolutely untrue."

Frank McDonnell, assistant general counsel for Parx, testified that he and Parx COO Joe Wilson made the decision to eject Guerrero after a 10 to 15 minute phone call that also included Morell. Goldman, who said he did not know that until Tuesday, expressed disgust with that fact and called the length of the ban arbitrary and capricious.

“If my eyes opened any wider I think I would have strained them," Goldman said.

Kramer declined comment following the hearing.