By Bill Finley
A Jan. 23 trial date for the Jason Servis case was announced last week, which means in about eight months there will be some closure and Servis will learn his fate. The way he has handled things, it seems that he is at least somewhat optimistic that he will be found not guilty. If so, he is deluding himself. Everything about this case says that he has virtually no chance of being acquitted.
Which raises a question: why is he fighting this when it makes far more sense to go to the government and cut a deal that will result in less prison time?
Has Servis not been paying attention? So far, the government is undefeated, unscored upon and running up the score. They have gotten a number of people to plead guilty, including Jorge Navarro, who is rotting away in prison. Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli fought and took their cases to court and in both cases the jury didn't have time to order lunch before convicting them. Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, who is one tough cookie, has never shown so much as an ounce of sympathy for the dopers, alleged and otherwise.
Not that any of this should come as a surprise. Going to federal court and winning a criminal case brought by the federal government is nearly impossible. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 90% of those indicted in federal cases in 2018 pled guilty. Eight percent of all cases were dismissed and 2% went to trial. The end result is that in 2018, only 320 of 79,704 total federal defendants went to trial and won their cases, at least in the form of an acquittal.
The government's m.o. is to build cases against defendants that are so solid that a conviction is all but assured. That's the case with Servis. They say they have numerous wiretapped phone conversations in which he talks about drugging his horses. In one, he was allegedly caught saying that he gave the drug SGF-1000 to virtually all of the horses under his care. In court, when pleading guilty, veterinarian Kristian Rhein implicated Servis, testifying that he sold him illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. The prosecution has done an excellent job.
What, then, could possibly be Servis's defense? I can't even begin to think of one. I'm not a lawyer, but isn't this the very definition of being caught red-handed?
Then there's the matter of legal fees. Servis has hired a big-time lawyer in Rita Galvin, who represented former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his battle over sexual harassment charges. The meter has been running for a long time and there's no doubt that Lawyer Galvin gets a hefty fee for her services.
The longest sentence handed out so far has been the five years given to Navarro. But for Servis, it could be far worse. In a superceding indictment issued in November, 2020, the charges of mail and wire fraud conspiracy were added to the original charges of drug adulteration and misbranding. The maximum sentence for drug adulteration and misbranding is five years. The maximum sentence for wire and mail fraud is 20 years. Now facing a possible sentence of 25 years, the 65-year-old Servis may well spend the rest of his life in prison.
If he takes the case to trial, the government has no incentive to go easy on him. If he loses, he is going to go to prison for a long time. The 25 years, or something close to it, is a possibility. That's why he needs to cut a deal. Why not ask that the mail and wire fraud charges be dropped and agree to plead guilty to the drug adulteration and misbranding charges?
Yes, Servis is innocent until proven guilty. Yes, he is entitled to his day in court. But he's heading down a path that is no doubt going to dead-end in his being convicted. Does he not realize this? Did he, after so many years of allegedly doping horses and not getting caught, come to think he is a bulletproof? This is not going to end well for him.
Short Fields in Stakes Races
Six graded stakes races were conducted Saturday and four of them had five-horse fields. The other two were the GIII Peter Pan S., which featured eight runners, and the GIII Beaugay S., which had a field of seven. The average field size for the six races was 5.83.
The most glaring example was the GI Man o'War S. It had all the elements that normally attract decent sized fields. It's a Grade I, the purse is $700,000 and it's a grass race. Still, after a scratch, only five runners went to the post.
This is an on-going problem and it's getting worse all of the time. You're even seeing a race like the GI Apple Blossom H., worth $1 million, attract only five horses.
The foal crop keeps falling and the top horses have never raced more infrequently. But there's been no adjustment when it comes to stakes racing. We're left with a situation where there are too many stakes races and not enough horses to fill them. It might be a tough ask to ask tracks to eliminate a meaningful number of their stakes races, but that's exactly what needs to happen.
Alabama-Bred Siblings Duke It Out
You probably haven't been paying much attention to the Alabama breeding program, which has been hanging on by a thread since the Birmingham Turf Club closed years ago. But there still is such a thing as an Alabama-bred and with no racing in the state they occasionally show in special races carded just for them in Louisiana. That was the case Saturday night at Evangeline Downs, which produced a racing oddity. Three of the five starters in the $25,000 race were full-siblings. Two Mikes N Doc G, Liken It and Kellys the Boss are all by Doc N Bubba G out of the mare Ausbrook and were bred by Kent and Lisa Gremmels. They finished behind Foolish Steve (Mosquiot). Among the brothers and sisters, Two Mikes N Doc G fared best, finishing third.
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