The veterinarian’s horse doping trial began Jan. 21 in New York. Closing arguments will be heard on Monday.
Editor’s note: Harness Racing Update has joined the leading horse racing industry publications that are covering the Dr. Seth Fishman- Lisa Giannelli trial via pool reporting. To follow the trial from the beginning, here are all of the stories published to date in chronological order.
Friday, Jan. 21
Full day of testimony in Fishman trial
by Robert Gearty
A New York jury heard a full day of testimony Jan. 21 in the horse doping trial of Dr. Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli. The entire morning and most of the afternoon featured a second day of testimony from a woman who worked for Fishman at his Florida business Equestology for five years.
Courtney Adams, 34, testifying from Florida via video conference, told jurors that Fishman and Equestology were all about “testability.” That meant creating “product” that couldn’t be detected in post-race testing by horse racing authorities, she said.
During her testimony in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, prosecutors showed an email in which a veterinarian who was a client of Equestology asked about one of the products, equine growth hormone, and whether it was testable.
“That was our biggest selling point, that he specialized in making product that wasn’t testable,” Adams testified, referring to Fishman.
The witness, who had been an Equestology office manager and then a sales rep, said that Fishman told her there was a risk of regulators coming up with a test to detect the substance. If that happened, Fishman said he would have to create another product that would be undetectable, she said.
“That was the whole point of that product to be not testable,” Adams testified.
Fishman and Giannelli face conspiracy charges in a wide-ranging scheme to dope horses with performance-enhancing drugs to boost the treated horses’ chances of winning races. Those charged include prominent trainer Jason Servis, who has maintained a not guilty plea and is awaiting trial. Others, such as trainer Jorge Navarro, have pled guilty and been sentenced.
Prosecutors say the accused were motivated by greed to win races and acted without regard to the welfare and safety of horses.
While on the stand, Adams admitted helping to mislabel products that Fishman created for clients around the country and in the United Arab Emirates. She said she also shipped vials of product without any labels.
Under questioning by prosecutor Andrew Adams, the witness said that she knew “in general terms” that some of those who purchased Fishman’s drugs were horse trainers.
“He would discuss why they wanted them and why they were being used by them,” she testified.
“And did he say why they were being used by trainers?” the prosecutor asked.
“He said they were being used because they were untestable,” Adams replied.
The jury also heard the witness cite the names of some of the drugs Equestology sold.
Those products included Endurance, Bleeder, Hormone Therapy Pack, HP Bleeder Plus, and PSDS.
Adams testified that PSDS stood for Pain Shot Double Strength, describing it as a “double strength product for pain.”
She indicated she didn’t know what the other substances were for.
Adams said she stopped working for Equestology in 2017.
“I was over it to be honest,” Adams testified. “I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
As she left, Fishman asked her not to discuss their business with anyone, Adams noted.
“I said okay,” she said.
She said in 2018 investigators with the Food and Drug Administration approached her to ask about Fishman. She said she wasn’t comfortable talking to them without a lawyer.
After Fishman, Giannelli, Servis, and about two dozen others connected to horse racing were indicted in March 2020 in the doping case, Adams said a friend sent her a link with a story about the arrests.
She said after reading it she contacted law enforcement.
“I read the story, and I realized they didn’t have the whole story, and I felt obliged to give it to them,” Adams told the jury.
She said as a result of the information she provided, government lawyers offered her a non-prosecution agreement.
During cross-examination, Fishman’s attorney Maurice Sercarz sought to suggest that Adams was motivated to contact law enforcement out of personal animosity against Fishman.
She admitted that before she left Equestology, Fishman had accused her of theft and using Equestology funds to purchase personal items.
She told Sercarz she was upset about those accusations “because they were false.”
During his cross-examination, Giannelli’s attorney, Louis Fasulo, questioned Adams about whether she would work at a place that put horses in danger.
No was her response.
Adams also said she didn’t think she was breaking the law when labeling products she said were mislabeled.
Toward the end of the day, Long Island retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Angela Jett took the stand to read from notes of an interview she conducted with Fishman in 2010.
Jett said she had interviewed Fishman as a potential government witness in a $190 million securities fraud case. That case involved a magnate named David Brooks and a body-armor company he owned on Long Island. Fishman worked for Brooks, an owner of standardbred racehorses that competed in New York and elsewhere.
According to the notes, Fishman told Jett that he had supplied performance-enhancing drugs to Brooks, who administered them to horses before racing.
Brooks was found guilty in 2010 of charges connected to the fraud and died in prison while serving a 17-year prison sentence.
Under cross-examination by Sercarz, Jett acknowledged that her notes don’t say whether Fishman learned of the doping at the time it occurred or “after the fact.”
He also pointed out that Jett’s notes show that when Brooks asked Fishman to dope a horse, Fishman refused.
Fishman’s admissions to Jett never led to charges.
The trial resumes Jan. 24.
Sunday, Jan. 23
Doping trial pauses for weekend, but court filings don’t
by T. D. Thornton
Although the federal racehorse doping conspiracy trial for veterinarian Seth Fishman and his assistant, Lisa Giannelli, paused for the weekend, attorneys for both sides remained busy on Saturday and Sunday, filing requests with the court over the admissibility of evidence regarding an equine fatality and the way witnesses must testify while wearing masks as a pandemic precaution.
On Sunday morning, the prosecution filed a motion in United States District Court (Southern District of New York) that asked for permission to present evidence related to Fishman being investigated in Delaware more than a decade ago when a standardbred died after being injected with one of his prescribed products.
“The Government moves for the admission of evidence regarding Fishman and Giannelli’s knowledge of the death of the horse ‘Louisville’ in light of the defendants’ opening statements and lines of cross-examination,“ prosecutors wrote in the Jan. 23 motion.
“The Government is entitled to fairly rebut the joint defense theory that the defendants lacked criminal intent because they sought only to help animals. Given that defense counsel has placed the safety and welfare of animals squarely at issue with respect to the defendants’ intent to defraud or mislead in distributing these drugs, the Rule 403 balancing has shifted significantly,“ the filing continued.
Rule 403 pertains to a judge’s discretion to exclude certain evidence if it is outweighed by the potential danger of unfair prejudice to defendants or could cause confusion among jury members.
In this case, prosecutors had previously been told that the evidence related to Louisville would not be permitted. But now the feds are saying that based upon the defense’s strategy presented in the first few days of the trial, the evidence related to that equine death and its investigation by the state is newly relevant and should be allowed.
“The defendants each have advanced the theory that Seth Fishman was acting only in the best interest of the animal, and that Lisa Giannelli acted in reliance upon Seth Fishman’s so-called veterinary expertise,“ the motion stated.
“A defendant suffers unfair prejudice only where evidence ‘lure[s] the factfinder into declaring guilt on a ground different from proof specific to the offense charged,’” the motion argued. “But defense counsel cannot have it both ways: they cannot raise the defense that the defendants were concerned with the welfare of horses (or had no reason to believe they risked the safety of horses), then exclude highly probative evidence to the contrary…
“Countervailing evidence that Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli were aware of the risks of Pentosan, in particular, and IV drugs, generally, yet still distributed those drugs directly to racehorse trainers without prescriptions from or the oversight by a veterinarian is now highly relevant to the defendants’ state of mind—the central point of contention as a result of defense counsel’s arguments and questioning,“ the filing stated.
“By giving trainers and other non-medical personnel access to prescription and custom injectable drugs, Fishman and Giannelli provided the means by which trainers could do serious injury to their horses, and both defendants were aware of that fact at least as a result of the complaint lodged against them…
“There is no question that Giannelli and Fishman were aware of these risks as of at least 2010 when the complaint was filed with the Delaware Division of Professional Responsibility. That they continued to distribute Pentosan, and other IV medications to trainers, grooms, and others, has significant relevance in light of the arguments now raised to the jury,“ the filing stated.
Fishman is charged with two felony counts related to drug alteration, misbranding, and conspiring to defraud the government. Giannelli, who worked under Fishman (her exact role is disputed) faces similar charges.
In a separate letter to the judge filed by Fishman’s attorney on Saturday, the defense took umbrage with a courthouse COVID-19 safety protocol requiring witnesses to testify while wearing masks despite already being sequestered in a HEPA-filtered plexiglass box.
“In our respectful view, adding a mask requirement to the current precautions hampers adequate assessment of witness demeanor and credibility, impermissibly impairing defendants’ Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to confrontation, due process and fair trial,“ Fishman’s lawyer wrote.
“Granted, balancing those essential guarantees against public health considerations is no easy task. But even amid an ongoing pandemic, an additional witness mask requirement seems unwarranted overkill, a belt-and-suspenders approach,“ the Jan. 22 letter stated.
“Conversely, the prevailing lesser restrictions–including ample distancing and continuously masking all trial participants and spectators save a single testifying witness and speaking lawyer, each sequestered in their own HEPA-filtered plexiglass box–appear more than sufficient,“ the defense stated.
Monday, Jan. 24
Mistrial declared in Giannelli case due to COVID-19
by Robert Gearty
COVID-19 temporarily upended Jan. 24 the horse doping trial of Dr. Seth Fishman and Lisa Giannelli–who are among the 27 horse racing professionals, including prominent trainers, charged in the case.
As the trial’s second week began, testimony was delayed after it was revealed that Giannelli’s trial attorney had tested positive for the disease before the trial was to resume Monday.
Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil then declared a mistrial on Giannelli’s behalf because her attorney Louis Fasulo wouldn’t be able to return to court for at least 10 days.
“I can’t have a jury on ice for 10 days,” she said.
The jury never heard any witnesses Monday and Vyskocil sent them home after lunch with the resumption of the trial in doubt.
In the courtroom and without the jury present Fishman’s attorneys also moved for a mistrial. Vyskocil reserved decision on the motion until Jan. 25 in the morning but during back and forth with the Fishman defense team she hinted she was considering having the trial resume with only Fishman. The trial continues Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
The trial opened Jan. 19 with jury selection followed by two days of opening statements and testimony from three witnesses.
Prosecutor Anden Chow told the jury Fishman and Giannelli had for two decades operated a “black-market drug business” that peddled to horse trainers around the country performance enhancing drugs that were administered to horses on race days and that couldn’t be detected by horse racing commissions in post-race testing.
Most of the testimony the jury has heard came from the government’s first witness, a 34-year-old woman, Courtney Adams, who worked at Fishman’s South Florida business for five years until 2017. She said Fishman was fixated on creating drugs that were untestable.
Fishman attorney Maurice Sercarz told the jury his client’s actions were in accordance with his veterinary oath to protect the safety and welfare of animals. Fasulo said Giannelli didn’t believe she was doing anything wrong while working for Fishman.
They are charged with conspiracy to violate drug adulteration and misbranding laws in the doping horses. Prosecutors say the 11 trainers charged in the case acted to win lucrative purses without regard to the health of their horses.
Both Fishman and Giannelli are out on bail and were in court Monday.
The U.S. District Court in New York has implemented numerous Covid protocols to avoid outbreaks. The witness stand has been outfitted with a HEPA-filtered plexiglass box. There’s also a HEPA-filtered plexiglass box for lawyers to use when they question witnesses. Masks are required of everyone in the courtroom, including the judge, but witnesses and lawyers can remove them if they are using those boxes.
Over the weekend courthouse officials implemented a new protocol. It required that lawyers and witnesses needed to take a rapid PCR test if they intended to remove their masks while using the boxes.
It was when Fasulo took the test in accordance with the new protocol that he learned of the positive result.
He showed up the courtroom briefly and then left. He spoke to the judge via an audio hookup.
His symptoms appeared mild. He told Vyskocil he had a “tickle in his throat.”
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. I feel terrible,” Fasulo said before consenting to the mistrial.
Giannelli’s new trial date hasn’t been set.
Fishman’s other attorney Marc Fernich argued a mistrial was warranted given the positive Covid test. He also said it was warranted given that the trial’s beginnings had exposed a conflict in defense strategy with Fasulo.
As proof Fernich and Sercarz pointed to Fasulo’s opening statement.
“Mr. Fasulo’s second line was, ‘We sit here after hearing the government say Lisa Giannelli was a lone wolf in a herd of sheep. What she was more the proverbial sheep herded by the sheep master’ a clear reference to Dr. Fishman,” Sercarz said.
He and Fernich argued that it would be difficult to convince the jury otherwise after they heard that and Giannelli was no longer part of the case.
Vyskocil said she didn’t see what the problem was.
“Opening statements are not evidence and the jury has been told that,” she said.
Still awaiting trial is Jason Servis whose horse Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby only to be taken down for interfering with another horse. Prosecutors have accused Servis of doping dozens of horses in his barn, including Maximum Security.
Tuesday, Jan. 25
Jury hears wiretaps in Fishman trial
by Robert Gearty
The jury in the federal horse-doping trial of Seth Fishman heard Jan. 25 a portion of a Federal Bureau of Investigation wiretap in which the veterinarian discusses whether the drugs he sold to horse trainers involved doping.
“Any time you give something to a horse, that’s doping,” Fishman says in the conversation recorded by the FBI Apr. 5, 2019. “Whether or not they test for it is another story.”
On the call with Fishman was an unidentified individual who had wanted to know more about the drugs.
“But it’s not doping, yeah?” that person asks.
“Don’t kid yourself,” Fishman also tells him. “If you’re giving something to a horse to make it better, and you’re not supposed to do that, that’s doping. You know, whether or not it’s testable that’s another story.”
The wiretap was played in court on the fifth day of the trial as testimony resumed after a day’s interruption. On Jan. 24, Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil declared a mistrial in the case of Fishman co-defendant Lisa Giannelli. Giannelli’s attorney tested positive for COVID-19 before court on Monday, warranting the mistrial.
As the day began Tuesday, Vyskocil announced a ruling rejecting a motion for a mistrial by Fishman’s attorneys. They moved for a mistrial because of the positive COVID-19 test they believed upset the flow of the trial and because of remarks the attorney for Giannelli made during openings statements last week that they said could prejudice the jury against their client.
That attorney, Louis Fasulo, had described his client as the “proverbial sheep” to Fishman’s “sheep master.”
Vyskocil countered that Fishman had not been prejudiced.
“Dr. Fishman has received a fair trial so far and will continue to receive a fair trial,” Vyskocil said.
Fishman was one of more than two dozen members of the horse racing community charged in sweeping indictments in March 2020 with conspiring to dope horses at race tracks across the country with illicit performance-enhancing drugs that wouldn’t show up in post-race testing. Those charged included top trainers Jason Servis, who awaits trial, and Jorge Navarro, who pled guilty to conspiring with others to dope horses and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Fishman is charged with two counts of conspiring to violate drug adulteration and misbranding laws. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.
As part of their case, prosecutors allege Fishman accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Navarro in exchange for untestable drugs.
On Tuesday, prosecutors called Dr. Jean Bowman, veterinary medical officer in the division of surveillance for the FDA, as a government expert witness.
During her testimony, prosecutor Sarah Mortazavi introduced into evidence photos taken on the day of Navarro’s arrest in 2020 that showed him in possession at his Florida home of four alleged PEDS that came from Fishman.
Mortazavi drilled down on those drugs, named BB3. The indictment described BB3 as a customized “blood building” PED that when combined with intense physical exertion thicken a horse’s blood. A horse doped with BB3 ran the risk of a heart attack, the indictment said.
The photo of BB3 seized by the FBI from the Navarro residence shows only the product’s name on the bottle.
Bowman testified that BB3 had not been approved by the FDA and that she could find no studies in an FDA database about BB3 and its effectiveness and safety to horses.
Bowman also told the jury that the label on the BB3 bottle should have contained more information to pass muster with the FDA. She said the label should have contained the name of the prescribing veterinarian, how and when it should be administered, the identity of the manufacturer, and what precautions should be taken before administering it.
The doctor testified that BB3 and the other drugs Fishman sold should only be prescribed after a physical examination of the animal.
Prosecutors contend Fishman never did that before shipping his PEDs to buyers.
At one point during questioning, Mortazavi had Bowman read from an email Fishman sent to Giannelli on Jan. 5, 2019, that contained a list of drugs available from Fishman’s South Florida business Equestology.
“BB3: would only let trusted clients have this,” Bowman quoted the email as saying.
Fishman’s lawyers Maurice Sercarz and Marc Fernich will have an opportunity to cross-examine the FDA expert when the trial resumes Jan. 26.
Wednesday, Jan. 26
Former harness trainer Cohen testifies in Fishman trial
by Robert Gearty
It was nearly two years ago when former standardbred trainer Ross Cohen was among 27 trainers, veterinarians and others snared in the largest horse doping prosecution in U.S. history.
In a New York courtroom Jan. 26, Cohen surfaced on the stand as a key government witness against Dr. Seth Fishman–the first of those arrested in the case in Mar. 2020 to go to trial on charges of conspiring to violate adulteration and misbranding laws.
As Fishman observed from the defense table, Cohen testified that when he was training horses at Yonkers Raceway years ago, he purchased performance enhancing drugs years ago from Lisa Giannelli, who worked as a distributor for Fishman and the veterinarian’s Florida-based drug manufacturing business Equestology.
Cohen, 50, of upstate New York, testified he discussed with Fishman a product called “Frozen Pain.”
“He said it takes away pain and stops horses from getting tired in race,” Cohen said. “It had a performance-enhancing effect.”
Cohen testified about another conversation with Fishman in which he complained that Frozen Pain worked great for some horses when they were racing in his stable, but not so much other horses.
Cohen said the drug’s inconsistency upset Fishman.
“He said it was hard to keep it stable and to get good employees to make it,” the witness testified, referring to Fishman. “He said he was going to stop making it.”
During his testimony, Cohen said he agreed flip in June of 2020. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to testify on behalf of the government in exchange for leniency at sentencing. Prosecutors kept the plea deal under wraps until Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Fishman produced performance drugs that trainers administered to horses to boost their chances of winning races. They said the doping put racehorses at risk of breakdowns and death. They said Fishman sought to created drugs that couldn’t be detected in post-race testing.
As he was questioning Cohen, prosecutor Andrew Adams introduced photos of six of those charged in the case and had the witness identify them. One of the photos was that of former top thoroughbred trainer Jorge Navarro, who has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He was sentenced in December to five years in prison.
After Cohen identified Navarro, Adams played for the jury a video of the Navarro-trained sprinter X Y Jet winning the $2.5-million G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2019. The video shows an exuberant Navarro celebrating the victory in the paddock.
Adams next had the jury read a text Fishman sent to Navarro and the response he got.
“Congratulation, just saw the race,” Fishman’s text read.
“Thank you, boss. You’re a big part of it,” Navarro replied.
Cohen admitted to a checkered past when he was a harness trainer. He served suspensions for drugs and had been barred from racing at Monticello Race Track and Yonkers. He was eventually allowed to return to Yonkers.
In the plea agreement, Cohen admitted to fixing races.
“I paid drivers for somebody to hold their horses back in races,” he testified.
Maurice Sercarz on cross-examination sought to suggest that Cohen had turned on Fishman to save his own skin.
“Who decides if you’re telling the truth?” the lawyer asked.
“I assume the government,” Cohen responded.
The trial’s sixth day in U.S. District Court in Manhattan also featured testimony from Dr. Cynthia Cole, director of the racing lab at the University of Florida, where she oversaw drug testing of horses competing at Florida tracks.
Cole was called as expert witness to identify the drugs Fishman was peddling and if they would be performance enhancers if administered to horses when they raced. In her opinion, Fishman’s products were PEDs.
During her time on the stand, Cole was asked to comment on a Fishman product called Serenity. She said it appeared to be a sedative.
It was her testimony that it may seem counterintuitive to administer a sedative to a horse before a race, but she explained that some horses, especially young horses, can be high-strung.
“The ability to produce a mild sedative that could take the edge off, if you will; could help a horse perform better in a race,” she told the jury.
The trial resumes Jan. 27.
Thursday, Jan. 27
Trainers testify to racing horses on PEDs supplied by Dr. Seth Fishman
by Robert Gearty
Two current trainers testified Thursday (Jan. 27) at Dr. Seth Fishman’s horse doping trial that they raced horses on illegal performance-enhancing drugs that came from the accused veterinarian.
The testimony from Adrienne Hall and Jamen Davidovich highlighted the seventh day of Fishman’s trial on adulteration and misbranding conspiracy charges. Fishman was one of 27 individuals charged in the case and is the first on trial. Those charged include two prominent thoroughbred trainers — Jason Servis, who is awaiting trial, and Jorge Navarro, who pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Hall, of Monroe, NJ, trains horses at the Sunshine Meadows harness track in Florida and last raced a standardbred last month in New Jersey. Davidovich, also an owner, raced primarily in the Mid-Atlantic in 2020-21. He has starts this year in New York and Ohio and says he approaches the sport now more as a hobby.
Both told the jury of eight women and four men how they went about getting in touch with Fishman in 2017 and 2018 with the sole intention of obtaining PEDs that wouldn’t show up in post-race testing.
“His reputation preceded him,” Davidovich, 31, of Pennsylvania said.
Hall testified Fishman gave her a PED called VO2 Max, which she used to dope a horse and win a harness race in March 2019. Prosecutors have elicited testimony that VO2 Max increases horses’ oxygen levels that enable them to run faster and longer but at risk to their safety and well-being.
The jury heard a portion of an FBI wiretap that captured Hall excitedly telling Fishman about the first-place finish.
“I wish you could have seen the race,” Hall says to the veterinarian. “He was so fantastic. He dominated. He was a completely different animal. I was so happy.”
Hall added the horse’s final quarter time was 27 seconds.
“What is it usually?” Fishman asks.
“Usually it’s :28 or :29 and struggling,” she responds.
Hall testified that the PEDs were a gift from Fishman. She said she believed that was the case because Fishman wanted her to connect him to two trainers she knew.
One of those trainers was Todd Pletcher, the Hall of Famer who runs a large stable.
His name was revealed under cross-examination by Fishman attorney Maurice Sercarz.
Prosecutor Sarah Mortazavi, who initially questioned Hall, never asked Hall to reveal the names during her direct examination.
At the start of her direct testimony Hall had said that before she got her trainer’s license, she worked at two thoroughbred farms and for Pletcher’s stable in an administrative position, not with horses.
Hall told Sercarz that even though she told Fishman she would contact Pletcher, she never did.
Mortazavi then asked why that was when she questioned the witness again.
“He would never take my advice or opinion,” Hall testified, referring to Pletcher. “I would never approach him about something like that.”
Hall was on the witness stand, testifying against Fishman as part of a non-prosecution agreement with prosecutors. They agreed not to prosecute her for doping horses.
Davidovich was testifying without any such agreement. Instead, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify and then was compelled to testify by Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil under a grant of immunity. Under a grant of immunity, a witness can’t be charged with any crimes he or she admits to.
Hall and Davidovich could, however, potentially face sanctions from regulators after their testimony. Servis and Navarro have been suspended from racing, as have other indicted individuals.
Davidovich told the jury Fishman began supplying him with PEDs after a meeting at a sushi bar in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He said there was a third person at the meeting, a person he described as “my owner.”
Asked by prosecutor Anden Chow how the subject of PEDs came up, Davidovich responded, “We were talking about different things to make the horse run better.”
Davidovich said that as they got to know each other, Fishman complained to him about Navarro. Prosecutors say Fishman was one of Navarro’s suppliers of banned PEDS.
“He said Navarro owed him a lot of money, and he was going to cut him off if he didn’t pay,” the witness testified. “He also said he didn’t want (Navarro) taking down the whole ship because he had a loud mouth.”
Davidovich said Fishman was referring to a video shot at Monmouth Park in which Navarro and one of his owners bragged after winning a race that Navarro was the “Juice Man.”
Davidovich said he stopped doping horses in 2018 after meeting Dr. Steve Allday, a well-known thoroughbred veterinarian.
“He was the first person in the business who took me under his wing and taught me a different way of being involved in horse racing,” he testified.
He added: “I know what I did was wrong, and I wanted to move forward in a different way.”
Friday, Jan. 28
Government rests its case in Fishman trial; closing arguments on Monday
by Robert Gearty
New York federal prosecutors in the horse-doping trial of Dr. Seth Fishman neared the finish line Friday (Jan. 28), bringing their case to a close after calling 11 witnesses and presenting evidence from FBI wiretaps.
“At this time the government rests its case,” prosecutor Anden Chow told U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil on the trial’s eighth day.
A short time later, the defense rested their case without calling any witnesses or putting the accused veterinarian on the stand to testify.
Without the jury present in the Manhattan courtroom, Vyskocil told Fishman he had a right to testify but was under no obligation.
“So, it’s your decision not to testify Dr. Fishman?” the judge asked.
“That is correct,” Fishman said.
“And it’s your decision alone not to testify?”
“That is correct,” Fishman said.
The conclusion of testimony sets the stage for the next phase of the trial: closing arguments followed by jury deliberations after the judge issues instructions on the law. Eight women and four men comprise the jury.
Vyskocil told both sides that summations would commence Jan. 31.
Fishman, 50, was one of 27 horse racing insiders arrested in March 2020 in the biggest horse doping bust in U.S. history. Those charged included two prominent trainers, Jason Servis, who is awaiting trial, and Jorge Navarro, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. Fishman is the first to go to trial in the case.
Prosecutors have accused Fishman of manufacturing illegal performance-enhancing drugs that harness and thoroughbred trainers, including Navarro, administered to their horses to win lucrative purses and enhance their reputation. Prosecutors say those charged acted without regard to horse welfare, risking breakdowns and death.
Prosecutors allege that Fishman was especially sought after because he claimed that his products wouldn’t appear in customary post-race testing.
Fishman is charged with two counts of conspiring to violate adulteration and misbranding laws. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
He went on trial Jan. 19 with Lisa Giannelli, who worked with him for 18 years. Vyskocil granted her a mistrial after her lawyer tested positive for COVID-19 Jan. 24.
Fishman contends that he carried out the accused activities in the good faith belief that he was practicing veterinary medicine.
On Friday, prosecutors set up a table in front of the jury box with dozens of boxes and bins containing vials of substances worth tens of thousands of dollars, seized at the time of Fishman’s initial arrest in 2019. Prosecutors say the vials contained PEDs.
Additionally, Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Jarrett Concannon testified that during a search of Fishman’s business in South Florida last month, he took photos of the same products stored on shelves.
Prosecutors say the search showed Fishman was in possession of PEDs in violation of his bail conditions.
The government’s witnesses were a varied assortment. They included a woman who worked for Fishman and his Equestology business in South Florida for five years and testified after agreeing to a non-prosecution agreement with prosecutors.
They further included Ross Cohen, a defendant in March 2020 indictments. He agreed to flip as part of a cooperation deal with the feds.
Also testifying were two current trainers, Adrienne Hall who has small stable of harness horses in Florida, and Jamen Davidovich, who ran principally in Ohio in 2021 and has a start this year in New York.
Each testified Fishman supplied them with PEDs for their horses after reaching out to the veterinarian a few years ago.
Jurors also heard testimony from three FBI agents and two experts in veterinary medicine.
As part of their case, prosecutors played excerpts from more than two dozen wiretaps that captured Fishman discussing horse doping and bragging that his products weren’t “testable.”
“Don’t kid yourself,” Fishman is heard saying to an unidentified male individual on the other end of the line in a wiretap from April 15, 2019. “If you’re giving something to a horse to make it better, and you’re not supposed to do that, that’s doping. You know, whether or not it’s testable that’s another story.”