Giannelli Case Heads to Jury


Sarah Andrew


Jury deliberations began began May 5 in the federal horse doping trial of Lisa Giannelli.

The jury of eight men and four women got the case in U.S. District Court in New York late in the day and deliberated for about 30 minutes before going home for the night.

Their deliberations resume May 6.

Before leaving the courthouse, the jury requested a large batch of government exhibits and a transcript of the testimony of a government witness, Conor Flynn. He is a former assistant harness trainer who became a cooperating witness after his arrest in a related horse doping prosecution.

Giannelli, of Felton, Delaware, is charged with conspiring in the distribution of misbranded and adulterated performance and enhancing drugs that prosecutors say were used by corrupt trainers to dope horses.

Prosecutors allege she engaged in the conspiracy while working at a Florida company called Equestology that was owned by veterinarian Dr. Seth Fishman. The doctor was convicted at his own horse doping trial in February.

In closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Sarah Mortazavi described Giannelli as Fishman's “trusted partner” at Equestology.

But defense attorney Louis Fasulo countered that Giannelli was just an employee of Fishman's who did what she was told.

“At no time during her employment did Fishman tell her, 'You can't do that,'” Fasulo said during his summation.

“Lisa Giannelli was a high school grad relying on her boss, doing her job as instructed and no one tells you it was wrong,” he said. “No one from the inside. No one from the outside.”

Fasulo went on, “What was her intent? Was she acting in good faith? Was she doing the right thing.”

He argued Giannelli was acting in good faith without criminal intent.

Fasulo also told jurors that he wasn't going to tell them that trainers didn't use drugs purchased from Giannelli “in an illegal manner.”

But he said that was their decision, not Giannelli's.

He argued that at the track there is the “ultimate trainer rule” that says trainers are ultimately responsible for any drugs administered to their horses.

“There was no benefit for Lisa Giannelli,” Fasulo said.

If a trainer won a $60,000 purse, his client didn't benefit,” he argued. She got none of the purse money.

“What she wanted to do was as good a job for Seth Fishman as she could and work her 16 hours a day,” Fasulo told the jury.

He argued that the government had failed to prove that Giannelli intended to defraud the racing commission. Intent is an element of the crime that Giannelli is charged with in the indictment against her.

But in rebuttal to Fasulo's argument Mortazavi told the jury the government had more than met its burden in establishing Giannelli's guilt.

The government called 12 witnesses and introduced dozens of pieces of evidence, including emails, texts, wiretapped phone calls, photographs. Prosecutors also presented physical evidence seized by the FBI in a search of Fishman's business and Giannelli's residence.

She argued it wasn't true to say Giannelli didn't have a stake in races won by trainers using banned substances obtained from Equestology and Giannelli.

“Trainers who win races buy more drugs,” Mortazavi told the jury. “Trainers who didn't get caught buy more drugs.”

She added, “All the talk who is leading Equestology, who the veterinarian is, who makes more money is just a distraction.”

Another distraction was the defense argument that Giannelli never gave a trainer instructions on how to dope a horse before a race, Mortazavi said.

“The defendant had the needles and the drugs and the instructions telling them how to treat a horse on the day of a race and assuring them they wouldn't get caught,” the prosecutor said.

Mortazavi had begun her closing argument discussing criminal intent and how she said it related to Giannelli.

She said one proof of that intent to defraud and mislead was the untestability of Fishman's drugs. She said they were designed to avoid being detected in post-race tests.

She pointed to a text exchange between Giannelli and Fishman. Giannelli wrote that a client was asking about a particular drug and Fishman responded, “have it but it tests.”

Giannelli knew that mattered to trainers bent on cheating.

She said additional proof of that intent was the lack of any labels on some products.

“It's unlabeled to be untraceable,” Mortazavi said pointing to an illegal blood builder known as BB3. A government expert testified BB3 enhanced a horse's performance.

But Fasulo told the jury that expert could still tell what that drug was even without a label.

“If she knew, who is Ms. Giannelli deceiving,” he said.

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