10/22/2014 3:06PM

Wells reaches plea deal in race-fixing case


U.S. prosecutors have agreed to drop a three-count federal indictment alleging race fixing against the trainer David Wells in exchange for Wells pleading guilty to one misdemeanor charge of “rigging a publicly exhibited contest” in a Pennsylvania state court, according to court documents filed last week.

In an order signed Oct. 14, Judge William Caldwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania approved the agreement to send the case to Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. The order says the plea agreement requires Wells to plead guilty to “comparable charges addressing essentially the same criminal conduct underlying the federal charges.”

The plea agreement is not expected to go in front of the county court until March, the order states.

The attorney for Wells, Jeffrey J. Russo, did not respond to requests for information via e-mail Wednesday.

“Rigging a publicly exhibited contest” is a misdemeanor of the first degree in Pennsylvania, and it carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to Pennsylvania criminal codes.

Wells was arrested and handcuffed with two other trainers on the backside of Penn National Racecourse late last year. In an indictment unsealed after the arrest, prosecutors said the arrests were a culmination of a four-year investigation. All three trainers were charged with three felony counts related to race fixing that carried prison sentences of up to 40 years. They were immediately suspended indefinitely by the state racing commission.

While the indictments of the other two trainers listed a specific instance in which the trainers were alleged to have administered an illegal substance to a horse on race day, the indictment against Wells alleged that the trainer “would routinely inject prohibited substances into horses he trained and other horses he both trained and owned.” The indictment of Wells did not identify any specific horses who were administered medications on race day, nor did it identify the medications.

Wells was the trainer of Rapid Redux, who was given a Special Eclipse Award in 2012 after winning 22 consecutive races. The indictment of Wells covered “a period of several years prior to February 2012.”

The charges against one of the other trainers, Sam Webb, were thrown out by Caldwell earlier this year.

Caldwell said the federal government would be unable to prove that Webb broke a federal law even if the allegations in the indictment were true. The horse named in the indictment who was allegedly administered an illegal substance was scratched before it raced.

The other trainer, Patricia Rogers, also has had her case moved to the Dauphin County court. Her next court date is set for November.