Defense Request to Delay Doping Trial a No-Go

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Sarah Andrew

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A request by defendants Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli to delay next week's start of their trial in the alleged nationwide horse doping conspiracy because of COVID-19 concerns was not granted on Thursday by the judge handling the case.

Although no specific court order answering the motion had been filed prior to deadline for this story, a summary entry on the court docket describing what happened at a Jan. 13 pre-trial conference contained the notation, “Trial to begin January 19, 2022,” which is the originally scheduled start date.

In two highly redacted letters filed Jan. 12 in the United States District Court (Southern District of New York), both Fishman's attorney, Maurice Sercarz, and Giannelli's lawyer, Louis Fasulo, had written that they feared not only the possibility of contagion, but also the chance that any pandemic-related delays that happened once the trial got underway might end up causing a mistrial.

Reading between the lines of the redactions in both court filings, it appears as if someone–quite possibly one of the defendants–has contracted the virus.

The letter written by Giannelli's attorney contained a redacted portion of a sentence followed by the words, “which counsel learned on Jan. 8, 2022. Although her defense team is fully vaccinated and have received boosters, this is not a shield to the current variant, and it is certainly not a shield to testing positive but being asymptomatic…. Of immediate concern are the heightened risks to members of Ms. Giannelli's team.”

In arguing for an adjournment of the trial, Giannelli's lawyer had pointed out to the judge that nearby federal district courts in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey “have all suspended trials in the month of January,” but that New York's federal courts remain on schedule despite “the highest rate of infection [that] continues to surge upward.”

Federal prosecutors did not consent to the adjournment of the trial, although they were aware that the request was being made by the defense.

Fishman, a Florida veterinarian, is charged with two felony counts related to drug alteration, misbranding, and conspiring to defraud the government. Giannelli, who allegedly worked under Fishman (her exact role is disputed) faces the same two charges.

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