Citing Pandemic, Defense Asks for Delay in Doping Trial

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Attorneys for Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli, the first two defendants scheduled to face trial on Jan. 19 in the years-long alleged international horse doping conspiracy, Wednesday asked the judge in the case to delay the trial over concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a highly-redacted document filed Jan. 12 in the United States District Court (Southern District of New York), Fishman's attorney, Maurice Sercarz, wrote that he and Giannelli's lawyer “respectfully submit that the present trial should be adjourned until there has been a substantial reduction in the prevalence of this variant of the virus.”

Fishman, a Florida veterinarian, is charged with two felony counts related to drug alteration, misbranding, and conspiring to defraud the government. Giannelli faces a related charge that has to do with an online business called Equestology that was closely tied to Fishman's venture.

A footnote within the request is the most substantial part of the document that survived redaction.

It states that conducting a “trial before masked jurors implicates the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel from gauging jurors' facial reactions to questions and arguments counsel may advance and tailoring them accordingly.

“Insofar as the pandemic will reduce or eliminate the number of unvaccinated individuals available for jury service-and to the extent it disproportionately cognizable groups like the elderly and people of color-forcing a trial under these conditions may also implicate Dr. Fishman's right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community. The former prospect is especially fraught in a case instigated by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Finally, significant disruptions may ensue should key trial participants contract an infection [redacted] or another participant, creating substantial trail management problems and risking potential mistrial,” the footnote states.

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