Gill loses Pennsylvania suit but says federal indictments coming
A federal judge has ruled against former Thoroughbred owner Michael Gill and trainer Anthony Adamo in their lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission and several commission employees in a case involving Gill and Adamo’s ejection from Penn National racetrack in 2010.
But Gill, a controversial owner who sold his bloodstock after the 2010 incident, predicted a slew of federal indictments will prove that he was railroaded by Penn National “insiders” who were engaging in offshore betting and other illegal activities.
Sylvia H. Rambo, judge in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ruled in favor of the defendants either because the state employees or commissioners were entitled to qualified immunity from lawsuits or because the claims by Gill and Adamo failed “as a matter of law.” The ruling, issued on Tuesday, came nearly six months after a four-day bench trial in April. It was only in the latter stages of the trial that attorneys for the defendants raised the issue of qualified immunity.
The ejections of Gill and Adamo stemmed from the threat in January 2010 by members of the Penn National jockey colony to boycott races in which Gill-owned horses were entered. The jockeys claimed they were at risk because in their opinion an unusually high number of Gill’s horses suffered catastrophic breakdowns at Penn National.
To avoid the boycott the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission’s then-executive secretary Michael Dillon sent notices to Gill and Adamo effectively banning them from Penn National. The ejections were not based on specific violations of racing regulations but because their continued participation has “become inconsistent with the orderly conduct of the race meeting and is therefore inconsistent with the best interests of horse racing.”
Adamo appealed his ejection and was reinstated in March 2010. However, Adamo was subsequently notifed to appear before the racing commission for an “investigative interview” and did not comply with the order. The racing commission then suspended his license.
Gill did not appeal his eviction, instead filing suit along with Adamo for having their constitutional rights of due process denied.
In her ruling, Judge Rambo said neither Gill nor Adamo fully exercised the due process rights available to them. She also ruled that Dillon; commission employees Walter Remmert and Joseph Musalko; and commissioners Corinne Sweeney, John Hannum, and Raymond Hamm were entitled to qualified immunity because they believed they were relying on “relevant statutes, regulations, and case law.”
Gill and Adamo also have sued the 31 members of the Penn National jockey colony for interference with business relationships. The ruling by Rambo does not affect that case.
Alan Pincus, attorney for Gill and Adamo, said the court ruling against his clients “does not go to the facts of the case, just the legal issues involved.”
Gill said he planned to appeal while also pursuing his suit against the jockeys. The winner of the 2005 Eclipse Award as outstanding owner in North America said he is “not doing this to make money. Instead, Gill said he plans to prove that his allegations against the jockeys and others engaged in racing at Penn National – made at the time of his eviction and in a subsequent public statement – were true.
Gill told the Paulick Report an FBI investigation of jockeys, jockey agents, trainers, racetrack and Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission employees will lead to as many as 42 federal indictments. The indictments, Gill said, will involve manipulation of races, offshore gambling, collusion between trainers and test barn personnel, and embezzlement.
“Then we’ll see if people will believe what I was saying at the time about all of the corruption at Penn National,” Gill said.