By T. D. Thornton
In advance of next Tuesday's first status conference hearing in nearly five months in the federal racehorse doping case against the barred trainers Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro, plus 22 other racing industry defendants, both the prosecution and the defense filed letters to the judge Nov. 10 that give clues as to how each party intends to deal with the evidence in the case and the eventual trials that will ensue.
The defense attorneys for Jason Servis filed first, informing the United States District Court (Southern District of New York) that, “We anticipate making motions for: suppression of wiretaps; suppression of cellphone seizure and search; suppression of post-arrest statements; severance; and preclusion of certain evidence on Daubert [a rule of evidence regarding the admissibility of expert witness testimony] grounds.”
In addition, Servis's attorneys, Rita Glavin and Michael Considine, also forewarned U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil that because of the “seven terabytes of [electronic] discovery materials produced by the Government…in the last six weeks” that allegedly contain “more than 100 issues” that prevent the defense discovery coordinator from passing the evidence on to Servis's lawyers, “it will take substantial time to review.”
To underscore their point about what they term as a “tremendous volume” of new evidence, Servis's attorneys wrote, “We note that these recent productions, which we understand total approximately 2.4 million files, are more than 43 times the cumulative volume produced to the defense prior to Sept. 29, 2020.”
Hours later, acting U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss filed a letter on behalf of the prosecution refuting the Servis attorneys' claim about how and when the evidence was provided, stating that the government “has made approximately nine productions of 'group discovery' and over 40 productions of 'individual discovery' on a rolling basis from Apr. 2, 2020 to the present. The 'group discovery' the government has provided to date totals approximately eight terabytes of data…organized in folders and subfolders labeled to indicate the category of the materials contained therein and, where relevant, the premises, device, or account from which the records derive.”
Strauss continued: “The government has also provided defendants with notice for expert witnesses it anticipates calling at trial, and has requested reciprocal expert notice from any defendant who anticipates calling an expert witness at trial…To date, the government has received no notice of any such expert, but may reassess the need for pretrial motions in the event that such notice is provided, and depending on the content and qualifications proffered.”
From a “trying to read the tea leaves” standpoint as to how the trials might unfold, the government's prosecutorial team proposed to the judge what it would like for trial groupings for the current defendants in the case. They are: Group 1: Jorge Navarro, Erica Garcia, Christopher Oakes, Michael Tannuzzo, Marcos Zulueta, and Rebecca Linke. Group 2: Jason Servis, Kristian Rhein, Michael Kegley, Jr., and Alexander Chan. Group 3: Seth Fishman, Jordan Fishman, Lisa Giannelli, and Rick Dane, Jr.
- Strauss did not tip the government's hand in her letter regarding the basis for these groupings, but she did write that the prosecutors “will elaborate at the upcoming conference if requested.”
- The judge issued an order Nov. 11 mandating that the Nov. 17 status conference be conducted telephonically in light of ongoing pandemic precautions. Vyskocil did not address the issues pertaining to the evidence or the trial groupings in her order.
- Federal prosecutors in March made 29 arrests and brought charges in an alleged “widespread, corrupt scheme” dating to at least 2017 that centers on Navarro, Servis, and a vast network of co-conspirators who allegedly manufactured, mislabeled, rebranded, distributed and administered performance- enhancing drugs (PEDs) to racehorses all across America and in international races.
On Nov. 6, a superseding indictment replaced the version from March, adding wire fraud charges against Jason Servis and two veterinarians involved in the scheme to allegedly drug race horses. Five individuals named in the original indictment were not included in the superseding indictment, raising speculation that the five are cooperating with law enforcement authorities and could testify against the remaining defendants.