By Robert Gearty
Conor Flynn, a witness at Lisa Giannelli's horse doping trial May 2, testified that he was a former harness trainer who understood the penalties for violating race-day medication rules.
“You're not supposed to administer any drugs on race day,” Flynn, 32, told the jury on the trial's fourth day in U.S. District Court in New York.
Flynn is testifying for the government as a cooperating witness–the second cooperator to flip and testify against Giannelli who is on trial on a charge of conspiring to misbrand and adulterate drugs. The other cooperator was Ross Cohen, also a former harness trainer.
Cohen testified last week that he purchased performance-enhancing drugs from Giannelli. He also testified on cross-examination that he fixed horse races.
Prosecutors charged Flynn and Cohen two years ago as part of the government's sweeping crackdown on horse doping. Other harness trainers have been arrested in the case as well as several Thoroughbred trainers, veterinarians and those prosecutors say were distributors.
Flynn and Cohen pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in a bid for leniency at their sentencings.
Flynn was indicted on charges of conspiring to secretly administer performance-enhancing drugs to horses under his care.
He testified he became a licensed New York harness trainer when he moved to New York in 2009. He said in 2015 Richard Banca hired him as an assistant trainer at the Mount Hope Trainer Center in Middletown. Banca was among those nabbed in the horse doping case. He pleaded guilty last month and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
Flynn began testifying late in the day and his testimony was cut short when court recessed for the day. He returns to the stand May 3.
The day's first witness was Food and Drug Administration veterinarian Dr. Jean Bowman who testified as a government expert witness on new animal drugs.
During her testimony prosecutor Sarah Mortazavi asked Bowman about a document that was found on Giannelli's computer during an FBI search. It was an inventory list of drugs available for purchase.
The list included a product called HP Bleeder Plus along with a description that it could “achieve the same results without the same side effects of Lasix.”
Prosecutors have said HP Bleeder Plus was a performance-enhancing drug. They said veterinarian Seth Fishman, Giannelli's boss at Equestology, was the product's manufacturer. In February, a jury convicted Fishman of creating PEDs that were used to dope racehorses and that were designed to avoid being detected in post-race tests.
With Bowman on the stand Mortazavi played for the jury a wiretapped conversation from three years ago in which a customer ordered a bottle of HP Bleeder from Giannelli.
“Okay,” Giannelli is heard saying.
“Just mail it,” the customer says to her.
“Okay,” she says.
Bowman testified the bottles of HP Bleeder that the FBI seized in raids in Pennsylvania and New York violated FDA rules.
“It's missing the prescription legend, the name of the veterinarian,” Bowman testified. “It lacks information on the manufacturer and the ingredients.”
On cross-examination, Giannelli's attorney Louis Fasulo tried to get Bowman to say that a veterinarian could compound drugs if he wanted to create his own product.
“He'd have to meet certain conditions,” the witness responded. She said it would be okay only to prevent an animal's death or suffering or when no other drug was available.
“And suffering would be up to the discretion of the veterinarian,” Fasulo said.
“I think there's a pretty good definition for what is meant by suffering,” she testified.
The give and take continued as Fasulo continued to press the topic, suggesting it would be okay for a veterinarian to compound drugs, if it involved the use of two approved drugs.
Bowman testified in that instance you didn't need to compound anything. You could just administer the two drugs separately.
On re-direct examination, Mortazavi asked Bowman about her answers to the drug compounding questions.
“Animal suffering wouldn't be running slow?” she asked.
“No,” Bowman replied.