By T. D. Thornton
The sentencing for barred trainer Jason Servis, the final–and most notoriously prominent–defendant in the 2020 racehorse doping conspiracy scandal, was rescheduled by a judge's order on Thursday, from May 18 to July 26.
The May 4 court order got handed down four years to the date that the Servis-trained Maximum Security (New Year's Day) crossed the finish wire first in the GI Kentucky Derby. The colt was subsequently disqualified for in-race interference.
Unbeknownst to Servis at the time, federal investigators had already begun compiling a trove of wiretapped phone conversations between Servis and other now-convicted horsemen, veterinarians, and pharmaceutical suppliers, 31 of whom were arrested and charged in a series of coordinated law enforcement sweeps in March 2020.
Even after being implicated by other guilty-pleading conspirators, Servis had maintained his innocence and held out for a trial until Dec. 9, 2022.
As part of a negotiated plea deal with the government, he then pled guilty to a felony charge of misbranding and adulterating a chemical substance (described by prosecutors as similar to the bronchodilator clenbuterol but stronger), and to a misdemeanor, of misbranding and adulterating a purportedly performance-enhancing chemical called SGF-1000.
Prosecutors had alleged (and other convicted conspirators had admitted their roles in) Servis's administration of SGF-1000 to Maximum Security during the first half of 2019, when the colt rose from being a $16,000 maiden-claimer to a Grade I winner.
Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil of United States District Court (Southern District of New York) granted the sentencing date change at the request of Servis's attorney.
“I make this request for the following reasons,” attorney Rita Glavin wrote in a May 3 letter to the court. “First, the Apr. 27, 2023, Presentence Investigation Report contains numerous defense objections to certain factual assertions, as well as the Government's responses to the defense objections. Because of (i) the number of disagreements and (ii) the issues around those disagreements, the defense needs additional time to review documents and respond.
“Further, given the extent of the disagreements, the parties have scheduled time to meet and engage in a good faith effort to resolve as many disagreements as possible, such that if there remain disagreements, they can be streamlined and narrowed for the Court.
“Finally, I am lead counsel on another matter proceeding to trial in June 2023, which is why we seek a date later in July,” Glavin wrote.
The presentence investigation report is generally a public document that is available for anyone to access on the court's electronic docket. But the disputed one Servis's attorney referenced was not listed there as of deadline for this story.
Servis, 66, faces four years in prison when he is sentenced.
Prior to his plea deal, Servis had been scheduled to go on trial on two felony counts: Conspiracy to misbrand and adulterate performance-enhancing drugs, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He would have faced 25 years in prison on those two counts if convicted.