By T. D. Thornton
A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by prison-bound veterinarian Seth Fishman to dismiss Count One of his two racehorse doping conspiracy convictions.
Fishman, whose 26 months as a defendant have been hallmarked by minor courtroom dramas, various attempts to prevent or delay the trial, and accusations that he continued to peddle purported performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) while free on bail, had argued that he was tried twice for the same crime because the first count was contained within the second, much broader conspiracy.
Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil of United States District Court (Southern District of New York) didn't see it that way. Her May 31 ruling against Fishman's motion paves the way for his June 30 sentencing, at which he faces up to 20 years in prison.
“Fishman now moves pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure for acquittal on Count One, arguing that Count One is multiplicitous of Count Two,” Vyskocil wrote in her order. “That motion is DENIED because a rational trier of fact could find, based on the evidence at trial, that Fishman participated in two distinct conspiracies.”
Fishman, along with six other veterinarians, 11 trainers, and nine others, was charged in 2020 with being a key figure in an international network of purported PED suppliers who allegedly conspired to dope racehorses in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and the United Arab Emirates.
Count One alleged a four-year conspiracy (2016-20) with Jorge Navarro, Erica Garcia, Marcos Zulueta, Michael Tannuzzo, Christopher Oakes and unnamed others. Count Two alleged a broad, 18-year conspiracy (2002-20) with Lisa Giannelli, Jordan Fishman, Rick Dane, Jr., and unnamed others based on Fishman's Florida online drug-selling portal.
Although a number of defendants in the wide-ranging racehorse doping conspiracy pleaded guilty prior to Fishman, he was the first to stand trial and to be found guilty by a jury.
“The defendant filed several pretrial motions, but he never argued that the Indictment was multiplicitous,” Vyskocil wrote. “The defendant also never raised the issue of multiplicity in connection with any of the Court's instructions to the jury at the trial. Indeed, the instructions relevant to this motion were jointly proposed by the defendant and the government…
“In charging the jury at the end of the case, the Court stressed that the Indictment contained two separate counts, that each count charged a 'separate' conspiracy, and that the jury was required to consider each count 'separately' and 'return a separate verdict on each count.' The Court explained that while there might be 'facts in common to different counts, each count must be considered separately.'
“The Court further explained that while '[m]uch of the law' applied to both counts, the Court would point out differences and 'provide specific instructions' about 'particular elements or findings,'” Vyskocil wrote. “The Court also instructed the jury that the Indictment charged the defendant with continuing the conspiracy charged in Count Two while he was released on bail.
“The Court stressed that whether the jury found Seth Fishman 'guilty or not guilty' of one charged conspiracy 'should not affect [the jury's] verdict' as to the other conspiracy charged in the Indictment. The defense consented to all of these instructions in advance, never objected to them during the trial, and never otherwise raised the issue of multiplicity with respect to the jury charges,” Vyskocil continued.
“The jury convicted Seth Fishman of both of the charged conspiracies, found that he had intent to defraud or mislead with respect to each conspiracy, and found that he continued the Count Two conspiracy after he was released on bail,” Vyskocil summed up.
Fishman's sentencing was supposed to be May 5, but got pushed back to May 26 when he claimed he did not receive financial forms from the feds that are necessary for his pre-sentencing report. Then he requested another new date after pandemic-related lockdown conditions were imposed upon the cell block where he is being detained in New York.
Previous legal maneuverings included the Florida-based veterinarian being inexplicably absent from court on the day that he was found guilty. A cryptic comment from Fishman's attorney to the judge during closing arguments led to speculation that Fishman had to be hospitalized.
In December 2021, Vyskocil had modified Fishman's bail conditions after federal prosecutors presented evidence that backed up allegations he was still selling PEDs while awaiting trial.
On two other occasions in 2020 and 2022, Fishman had unsuccessfully petitioned the court to adjust scheduling for pandemic-related reasons, at first arguing that his right to a speedy trial was being hindered, and then wanting to delay the trial over concerns related to not wanting to get sick with COVID-19.