Judge in Horse-Doping Case Stays On, Blasts Request for Recusal

The federal judge overseeing the largest racehorse-doping prosecution in U.S. history refused a request by the defendants to step aside, calling it “frivolous” and an “obvious tactical gambit” to delay the case.

On Thursday, trainers, drug distributors and veterinarians charged in the case asked U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil to recuse herself, saying she bred racehorses herself for a number of years and had animals that competed with horses trained by two of the defendants, Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro.

During a status conference in the case Friday, Vyskocil denied the request and blasted the defendants for making it, saying she wasn’t a breeder but had simply owned a partial interest in two horses whose offspring later raced against horses they trained.

“No reasonable person would, or could, believe that I cannot preside fairly and impartially over this case based upon my ownership, my past ownership, of an incidental, fractional, financially negligible interest in two horses whose offspring -- offspring which I did not own -- apparently ran in four races against horses trained by defendants Servis or Navarro some 15 years ago, which is a decade or more before the alleged conspiracy” started, Vyskocil said.

The case is U.S. v. Navarro, 20-cr-160, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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