Pennsylvania Court: Ejection From Penn National Violated Trainer’s Rights

A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel ruled that the state’s racing commission violated the civil rights of trainer Eduardo Rojas when it upheld a private property ejection at Penn National last July, days after Rojas’ wife, Murray Rojas, was convicted in federal court of multiple counts of misbranding of drugs. The Murray Rojas case involved the prohibited use of therapeutic drugs on race-day. She was found not guilty on wire fraud charges. The racing commission permanently revoked the owner/trainer license of Murray Rojas.

Eduardo Rojas was not charged with any crimes.

Two of the three judges who heard the case ordered Eduardo Rojas to have a new hearing before the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission on the eviction note. A third judge President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, wrote a minority opinion that Penn National should not be given a second chance to “make its case” for the ejection in front of the regulatory body. Leavitt is the same judge who recently ruled against the racing commission on suspensions meted out against several horsemen for not supplying records sought by racing commission subpoenas.

The Penn National ejection letter cited a history of horses being transferred between Murray and Eduardo Rojas, saying it “created a negative perception of racing and pari-mutuel racing at Penn National and undermines and puts at risk the integrity and reputation of racing and pari-mutuel wagering in general.”

Murray Rojas appealed the ejection to the racing commission and a hearing was conducted July 26, 2017.

Eric Johnston, director of racing at Penn National, supplied the racing commission with specifics during the hearing showing that Murray Rojas transferred all of her horses to Eduardo Rojas on March 29, 2015, the day the FBI sent “target letters” to 40-50 trainers at the Grantville, Pa., track. In July, 20 horses were transferred back to Murray Rojas and on Aug. 12 – the date Murray Rojas was indicted – 12 horses were transferred back to Eduardo Rojas. Exhibits from Penn National alleged Murray Rojas saddled several of her husband’s horses in June 2017 – before the trial – and that she was in the winner’s circle after a victory by one of them.

Under cross examination at the eviction hearing before the commission, Johnston said all of the transfers were proper and approved by the stewards.

The racing commission unanimously upheld the ejection but reduced its duration from permanent to three years.

In support of the ejection, the commission wrote that “the continuous transfer of horses and the running of the very same horses back and forth between Murray Rojas and (Eduardo Rojas) certainly generated the appearance of a joint business enterprise.”

The majority opinion, written by Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer and supported by Senior Judge J. Wesley Over Jr., said Eduardo Rojas was not ejected, based on the letter from Penn National, for operating “one business enterprise” with his wife but for the transfer of horses between the two. In other words, the racing commission affirmation cited something (“a joint business enterprise”) that was not in the letter of ejection from Penn National.

“We, therefore, cannot say that (Eduardo Rojas) was apprised of the charges against which he needed to defend himself,” Cohn Jubelirer wrote. “As a result, his due process right were violated.”

Memorandum Opinion and Dissenting Opinion

The post Pennsylvania Court: Ejection From Penn National Violated Trainer’s Rights appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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