Archives: News


A. Thomas Levin Quoted In NYLJ “With 3 Retirements, NY’s Top Court Enters Period of Uncertainty, Lawyers Say”

Three judges are leaving the court in a 10-month span. Legal experts say the shakeup is a critical moment for New York’s highest court.

Major turnover has begun for New York’s top court.

Judge Paul Feinman abruptly retired last week over health concerns and two other judges on the Court of Appeals, Leslie Stein and Eugene Fahey, are set to retire by the end of the year. That’s three judges leaving the court in a 10-month span, a shakeup that legal experts describe as a critical moment for New York’s highest court.

“[It does] present the opportunity for a dramatic shift in the philosophical composition of the court, the geographical composition of the court, the diversity on many, many different levels,” said Scott Karson, president of the New York State Bar Association. “And it remains to be seen how dramatic the shift will be.”

There are many unknowns about how three new judges might alter the direction of the court, but compounding the situation is the current status of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The embattled third-term governor is the subject of a range of sexual harassment allegations and his administration has been accused of covering up the real number of nursing home residents who died from the coronavirus. There are multiple investigations into the alleged misconduct of Cuomo and his administration, including an impeachment investigation in the state Assembly.

It’s unclear if Cuomo’s picks will run into opposition in the state Senate, where a majority of lawmakers have called for him to step down.

The significance for the state’s top bench came into view last week when Feinman, the first openly gay judge on the court, suddenly retired “to attend to health concerns.”

Stein is planning to retire in early June and Fahey, who is set to reach the mandatory retirement age this year, will step down at the end of 2021.

In less than two weeks, the governor is expected to receive a small list of nominees for Stein’s seat from the Commission on Judicial Nomination. Cuomo will pick one of the nominees, who must then be confirmed by the state Senate.

Another element could potentially cloud the confirmation process: Because judges on the Court of Appeals sit on the impeachment court, any Cuomo nominee would have a vote in whether the governor is forced out of office.

“Not many people get to appoint their own potential judges,” said A. Thomas Levin, a Long Island attorney who has argued before the court.

As the investigations play out, an impeachment vote in the state Assembly is not expected to come anytime soon.

Levin, who is the former president of the state bar association, said he expects Cuomo to be in office long enough to at least appoint replacements for Stein and Feinman.

“Obviously, it puts much more drama into the situation than usual,” he said.

The Commission on Judicial Nomination says the deadline to submit applications to fill Feinman’s seat is April 8. In a statement, the commission noted that it’s cognizant of the need to “swiftly fill” Feinman’s seat.

It’s unclear if the commission will emphasize any particular legal background in selecting the nominees. In recent decades, the commission has put forward candidates from a range of legal professions, including private practice attorneys, law professors and appellate judges.

Among the three branches of New York’s government, the Court of Appeals is by far the quietest. Housed in its own building, the court assumes an out-of-spotlight role in Albany compared to state lawmakers and the governor.

There are rarely protests at the Court of Appeals compared to the Capitol in Albany, where waves of raucous demonstrators would gather in the building’s hallways during pre-pandemic legislative sessions.

The Court of Appeals also takes on a different tenor from the U.S. Supreme Court, said attorney Robert A. Spolzino, who has argued before New York’s high court.

The U.S. Supreme Court often weighs in on hot-button issues that run along fierce ideological lines. By contrast, the state law issues that come before the Court of Appeals are more practical in nature, Spolzino said.

Spolzino said he’s not sure the three new judges will lead to a sharp shift on the court, either. Part of that is the court itself, he said, but there has also been consistency in the person choosing the new members of the bench.

All of the sitting Court of Appeals judges have been appointed by Cuomo, he noted. Nevertheless, he argued it will be a challenge to incorporate a new slate of judges—and their thoughts on legal issues—into the dynamics of the court.

 

Click here to view New York Law Journal article.

 


Hon. Randall Eng Selected To Power 25 Lawyer List By Long Island Business News

Justice Eng Breaks Barriers, Offers Insightful Counsel

Justice Randall T. Eng taps into his vast legal and judicial experience to provide unique and insightful counsel and advice to Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C.’s (Meyer Suozzi) clients. His areas of practice include all matters of business affairs, litigation, appeals and dispute resolution. Of counsel to the firm and a member of its Litigation Department, including the Appellate Practice and Criminal Defense groups, Justice Eng also serves within the firm’s Alternative Dispute Resolution practice.

Justice Eng has spent his career gaining extensive legal knowledge and breaking barriers. He began in public service as an assistant district attorney in Queens County. At the time, he became the first Asian American appointed as an assistant prosecutor in New York history. He then served as the deputy inspector general of the New York City Correction Department and later became the inspector general.

Prior to joining Meyer Suozzi, Justice Eng served as the presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department — the busiest and largest Judicial Department in the State of New York, covering Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester, handling over 9,000 appeals per year. The presiding justice is the highest-ranking judge in the appellate division, in charge of all of its operations, as well as a sitting practicing judge on panels of appeal.

In 1983, Justice Eng became the first Asian American to become a judge in the state of New York when he was appointed to the Criminal Court of the City of New York by then-Mayor Edward Koch. He sat in the Criminal Court until 1988 when he was designated an Acting Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. In 1990 and 2004, Justice Eng was elected and re-elected to full 14-year terms on that bench.

Following these terms, he was appointed administrative judge of the criminal term of Queens County Supreme Court in 2007 and served in that role until 2008. In 2012, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Justice Eng to lead the Second Department, where he became the first Asian American to serve as presiding justice in New York’s history.


Kevin Schlosser Featured In Newsday Article, “Appellate Court weighs in on Poospatuck gas dispute”

In a potential blow to one of two low-priced gas stations on the Poospatuck Indian reservation, the state Appellate Division has upheld the Unkechaug Indian Nation’s sovereign right to determine whether blood-right members can possess land on the Mastic reservation after the tribe voted that station’s owner “undesirable.”

The two gas station/convenience stores operate next to each other on waterfront land on the 55-acre reservation, where the introduction of price-competitive gas has at times overheated. In 2019, while the initial state Supreme Court case was wrapping up, tempers flared after the nation attempted to blockade Fast Gas based on a judicial finding.

Tribe member Danielle Treadwell and her backers filed the appeal last year seeking to overturn a lower-court ruling that found the nation had not given up its sovereign authority to declare her undesirable, even though the tribe had temporarily waived its sovereign immunity in bringing the original court case against her.

The tribe in court papers has argued Treadwell’s Fast Gas station operated unsafely, a charge her lawyers have denied, and the undesirable status linked to the association with off-reservation entities who finance it. Gasoline at the stations can be lower because of certain tax exemptions. On Monday regular gasoline sold for $2.39 at both stations.

Once the tribe voted in September 2019 that Treadwell was undesirable and “issued the tribal resolution and directives based upon the membership’s vote, the Nation, pursuant to its own Tribal Rules, created a new and independent basis, under its sovereign authority, for excluding Danielle from the disputed portion of the subject property,” the Appellate Division ruling states.

The decision affirms the state-recognized tribe’s sovereign right to settle its own land determinations which was tested during a contentious court case and counterclaim over Treadwell’s claim to ownership of land that houses the newly built Fast Gas/Smokes R Us shop. The tribe in 2018 had filed suit disputing Treadwell’s claim to the land on which the station sits.

Fast Gas opened in 2019 next door to Montauk Native Gas, operated by Andre Hardy, who was countersued by Treadwell, in a claim that separately disputed his title to part of the land where his station sits. The nation says the properties have long been under the possession of tribal member Curtis Treadwell, a relative of Hardy and Danielle Treadwell.

In arguing to affirm its right to declare Treadwell undesirable, the tribe in its appellate brief said, “Plain and simple, this case boils down at its core to an unmitigated greedy attempted land grab by unscrupulous, trespassing non-Indian outsiders who have used [Danielle Treadwell] as a pawn to exploit the tax-exempt protections afforded to state-recognized Indian Nations by trying to operate a smoke shop and gas station within the Nation’s Reservation without its authority or consent.”

David Besso, an attorney for Danielle Treadwell, argued while the appellate-court ruling “did say the tribe didn’t give up sovereignty,” it “ultimately didn’t say anything about” her claim to the land, which he argued she will continue to litigate to keep.

He argued the tribe declared his client undesirable “under the wrong section of their bylaws,” and that the nation “can’t take her property without due process.

“There’s been no enforcement action at the present time,” he said of any attempt by the tribe to shutter the Fast Gas station. “If there is we’ll be right back in court.”

But Unkechaug Nation outside attorney Kevin Schlosser in an interview said the court’s ruling is clear.

“Two courts ruled [Danielle Treadwell] cannot challenge the sovereign act of the nation,” he said. “She can’t bring a lawsuit to challenge the vote of undesirability. That’s an act of sovereignty. New York courts can’t second guess that.”

It’s uncertain whether Danielle Treadwell will bring her case to the Court of Appeals. Schlosser noted it’s a high bar to do so, noting that permission to do so from the higher courts is “not often granted.”

Schlosser said the nation is “obviously is going to take all necessary action to uphold its rights and implement its decision. The nation as a whole has determined how this property should be used and they will indeed proceed to uphold their rights….The nation has made clear it has no desire for another gas station on its reservation especially directly next door to another safely operated gas station.”

Danielle Treadwell didn’t return a call seeking comment.

The Unkechaug Nation, in a statement, said it was “grateful that the New York Courts have recognized our sovereign authority as a Native American Indian Nation to determine how our land on our own Reservation is used and possessed and how our internal affairs are governed. We intend to make sure that our determinations are respected by all those concerned.”

 

To view article in Newsday, click here.


Michael J. Antongiovanni Obtained Appellate Victory Reversing Dismissal of $14.3 Million Claim

Partner, Michael J. Antongiovanni, recently obtained an appellate victory in the Appellate Division, First Department, reversing the lower court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s claim that its co-shareholders defrauded it
out of $14.3 million dollars in connection with their collective sale of shares in a pharmaceutical company.  Mr. Antongiovanni successfully argued that a general release did not bar plaintiff’s claim because the co-shareholders were fiduciaries of plaintiff and plaintiff was entitled to rely upon their misrepresentations concerning the terms of the deal and sign only signature pages of the closing documents at their request.

 


Andrew Turro Quoted In, “Rice Emails Suggest Entry Information Did Not Necessarily Convert To Additional Wins”

On the sixth day of a hearing examining her receipt of information from the New York Racing Association (NYRA) racing office, trainer Linda Rice said the emails provided to her by entry clerk Jose Morales had minimal impact on her decisions about which races to enter or the results of those races.

Rice continued her testimony started Wednesday before a hearing officer as part of the proceedings, which will determine whether her actions were “inconsistent with and detrimental to the best interests of racing generally” or were “improper acts and practices relating to racing” according to state rules. An investigation by the New York State Gaming Commission uncovered evidence that between 2011 and 2015, Rice received faxes and emails from former entry clerks Jose Morales and Matt Salvato, giving her the names and past performance records of horses prior to draw time. Senior racing office management has said the names of trainers and horses in a given race are not to be released until after a race is drawn (with stakes races being the exception).

On Thursday, Rice described the circumstances around her first getting this type of information from Morales. As the horse shortage in New York began to worsen, Rice remembered that racing office personnel became more aggressive about “hustling” races, or trying to convince trainers to enter their horses. She recalled being in the racing office several times when a clerk would print out current entries with horse names and past performance records and let her look at the sheet. She also said she witnessed this happening with other trainers.

Rice said she often asked NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes to provide her lists of stakes nominations along with an idea of which horses were probables for a stakes race, which is not considered confidential information. She recalled one morning when Morales called to say he had faxed her this information on a stakes race she’d requested, along with entry and past performance information for a race she hadn’t asked about, which he was tasked with hustling.

“I thought for a second, ‘That’s odd,’” she said. “But I’d already had him slide the races across the desk in the racing office and seen other racing clerks do it so I didn’t think much of it.”

Rice is accused of receiving this information on an ongoing basis, both for races Morales was hustling and for races she requested to see. Morales initially faxed the information to Rice’s office but switched to using email when the fax machine was out of order one morning. Fax transmission records are no longer kept from the period of time in question, so the commission’s evidence focused on copies of emails accessed by investigators.

Rice revealed that of 74 or 75 emails with race information, she entered horses in 23 of the races included in those emails. She won three of those races. Rice said there were around 80 races on the NYRA circuit she entered during the same period of time for which she did not receive any information from Morales. For the period of time covered by the emails, Rice said she won 16 percent of her races, a bit lower than her usual 20 percent.

There were many factors that determined whether or not Rice would enter a horse in one of the races for which Morales provided entry information. She said she typically points horses at races two or three weeks ahead of time and is not inclined to change the horse’s program just because the office is hustling a race. She also bases some of those decisions on whether or not a preferred rider is available, in addition to the usual factors like a horse’s performance in workouts, physical condition, etc.

Rice also addressed testimony from earlier in the hearing that she had a tendency to enter a race and then later swap out one horse for another. This wasn’t due to any insider info from Morales, Rice said, but more likely because turf races would attract so many entries that the racing office would give preference to horses who had not yet run at the meet. If she learned a race was oversubscribed and her entry had already run at the meet, she might swap another horse in that was more likely to make the final cut.

Andrew Turro, Rice’s attorney, completed questioning the trainer at the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing. Thursday had originally been scheduled as the final day for the hearing, but commission counsel has not yet had a chance to cross examine her, or to present any rebuttal evidence. An additional two days have been blocked out to conclude the hearing Dec. 9 and 10. No timeframe has been provided as to when the hearing officer may make a decision in the case.

Read previous coverage of the Rice hearing here.


Andrew Turro Quoted In, “Rice testifies that she didn’t pay for race information”

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Linda Rice on Thursday concluded two days of testimony under direct examination, downplaying the significance of information sent to her by New York Racing Association employees about races she was considering entering horses in that had yet to be drawn and denying that she paid money to get that information.

Rice’s license is under review by the New York State Gaming Commission which has alleged that Rice committed “corrupt and improper acts and practices in relation to racing,” beginning in the winter of 2011-12 through March 2015. Those practices include receiving past performance information in races that she was considering entering or asked to enter in by the NYRA racing department. The commission also alleges that she paid substantial sums of money for that information.

A lot of the case has centered on approximately 75 emails sent by Jose Morales Jr., at the time a NYRA entry clerk, to Rice over a three-month period in late 2013. Those e-mails included past performances of horses that had been entered in races Rice was considering entering or was being asked, or hustled, to enter in by NYRA, before those races were drawn.

When asked by her attorney, Andrew Turro, on Thursday how much those e-mails influenced her decision to enter horses in a race, Rice said “Not very much.”

Rice said she would use the information more so when a race she originally entered a horse in did not fill but there was a different race on a different day for which that horse was eligible.

“If I saw a race the following day or two days later that the horse meets the condition but I didn’t have a chance to do any work on the race . . . then I would ask [Morales] how does that race look? Can I take a look at it? And decided if I fit in this race or don’t fit in it,” Rice said.

Rice’s attorneys have argued that there are no NYRA or Gaming Commission rules that specifically state what information a racing department official can or cannot give to a trainer when asking that trainer to enter a horse in a race.

In an emotional opening statement he made Wednesday, Turro said Rice “faces the challenge of her life. The career she worked so hard to build – all the blood, the sweat, and tears she has invested in her life’s work over the past 35 years are now threatened by a claimed violation of a supposed rule that ironically never made it into anyone’s rulebook.”

Rice received e-mails from Morales from Oct. 9, 2013, through Jan. 2, 2014. Records indicate that Rice had horses in 109 races at NYRA tracks during that period. Of the approximate 75 races for which she allegedly received past performances, Rice said she competed in 23 races and won three. Two of those wins came on Dec. 19, 2013, at Aqueduct.

Wednesday, Rice testified that money she gave NYRA employees – mostly to those in the racing department and the starting gate crew – was for tips at Christmas. She did this starting in 2010 for a period of four or five years. Rice testified she didn’t recall exactly if she gave those gratuities in 2014. After she won the Saratoga trainer’s title in 2009 and when she shared the Belmont Park spring/summer title in 2011, Rice also gave money to the racing office and gate crew in celebration of those achievements.

Rice again answered “no” when asked for a second straight day by Turro if she gave anybody money in exchange for special treatment.

Morales was the key witness among nine witnesses the Gaming Commission called over four days beginning Nov. 3. Morales and Rice knew each other for a long time because Morales’ father was a jockey agent for Art Madrid, whom Rice dated three decades ago.

Rice became reacquainted with Morales when he went to work at NYRA in August 2008. Rice testified on Wednesday that on two occasions she loaned Morales money – totaling $1,800. On Thursday, Rice said she gave Morales “a couple of hundred dollars” when he asked her for money to go to Florida where he was hoping to become a jockey’s agent.

Rice gave Morales that money despite the fact he had never paid her back for two previous loans.

“He was a kid that was struggling, life’s a mess, [he was a] family friend, I liked his father and I felt sorry for him,” Rice testified when asked by her attorney why she gave Morales money.

During his testimony on Nov. 3, Morales said that when he first started taking entries from her that Rice told him, “You help me, I’ll help you.”

On Thursday, Rice tried to explain that conversation. She said that one day Morales hustled her to enter a horse in a race and upon reviewing the field Rice determined the race to be too tough, so she scratched the horse. While Rice said she understands the job of the racing office to hustle horses into races, she said she at least wants to be in spots where her horse has a chance.

“I said ‘Jose, I’ll help you, but you got to help me,’ ” Rice testified. “In other words, when you’re asking me for horses on a daily basis, you can’t be calling and putting me in these races where they don’t belong.”

Trainers called on Rice’s behalf have testified that racing office employees have given other trainers pertinent information regarding a race when trying to get them to enter a horse in a race. On Wednesday, NYRA-based trainers Jeremiah Englehart and Jimmy Ferraro gave their own examples of how the racing office would hustle them for horses. Both testified that while they were verbally given information about a particular race, they never received past performances by fax or e-mail.

To date, Rice has only been questioned by her attorneys and has not been subject to cross examination by Rick Goodell, attorney for the Gaming Commission.

That is expected to take place Dec. 9, the next scheduled day of testimony in this case.

Following the conclusion of the case, hearing officer Clark Petschek will have a minimum of 30 days to file a report and recommendation of any penalty that should be assessed against Rice to the Gaming Commission. The Gaming Commission then can uphold or amend any penalties assessed.


Andrew Turro Quoted In, “Rice Begins Testimony On Hearing’s Fifth Day, Characterizes Payments To Racing Office As Gifts”

On the fifth day of a hearing into alleged rule violations by top New York trainer Linda Rice, Rice’s attorney began laying the framework of his defense. Rice is accused of “actions inconsistent with and detrimental to the best interest of racing generally ad corrupt and improper acts and practices in relation to racing,” according to the New York State Gaming Commission. An investigation by the gaming commission determined that Rice received horse names and past performance information prior to draw time for a number of races between 2011 and 2015, and that she provided payments to members of the racing office staff in exchange for that information.

Attorney Andrew Turro, who represents Rice, reiterated his view that Rice did not violate a specific rule on the books at the time either with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) or the commission by taking the information, but also said Wednesday that Rice’s payments to racing office staff weren’t bribes.

“To use an overworked phrase, there’s simply no quid pro quo,” said Turro in his opening statement for Rice’s defense. “The evidence received today, and the evidence that will continue to be presented to this court will establish the undeniable truth — that the money Miss Rice gave to the racing office officials to the starting gate crew and virtually everyone who worked at the track were merely gestures of sincere appreciation and never an inducement to anything.”

Rice began her testimony Wednesday by going over her financial records from the time in question, showing a series of checks made out to individuals in the racing office, the starting gate crew, jockeys’ valets, and chief examining veterinarian Dr. Anthony Verderosa which she wrote after winning the Saratoga meet title in 2009. Later, Rice said she gave checks and later cash to the entire racing office staff and starting gate crew via entry clerk Jose Morales. Morales has admitted to providing Rice with the information in question. Those payments were intended to be Christmas gifts, Rice said, and were typically $200 or a bit more, depending upon the number of people employed in each department at the time. Rice said she later learned there was a cap of $75 allowed as gratuity for NYRA employees after the gate crew were called before the stewards for taking larger tips from jockeys.

Also on Wednesday, Turro called trainers Jeremiah Englehart and James Ferraro to learn more about their experiences with the racing office, particularly during times when there was a shortage of horses available to fill races in New York. Previous testimony from senior racing office officials stated that entry clerks are not permitted to give out the name of a horse or name of a trainer when “hustling” entries for a race with a small field. They are permitted to divulge information about the expected pace or comparative talent of horses entered in a race pre-draw, even giving out specifics such as a rival’s recent finish positions.

But Ferraro and Englehart say they have been given the names of trainers and horses pre-draw if a clerk is pushing to get a race filled. Englehart also said he uses a software program which helps him keep track of what conditions his horses are eligible for; the program also lets him review previous races with similar conditions, giving him a good idea which horses could be entered in a given allowance or claiming race. Englehart estimated that when entries are released for a race with eight horses, he will have correctly guessed the identities of five of them, on average.

Ferraro and Englehart also said they learn about the entries in an upcoming race from jockeys’ agents, who may be aware of horses their clients are riding.

When questioned by counsel for Rice and the commission, Englehart seemed to have complex feelings about what Rice had done.

“I’ve competed against Linda for a long time and I have a lot of respect for how hard she works, how hard it is or might have been for her to rise to the place she’s at right now,” he told Turro. “I think it’s just not fair to think we’re going to throw a career away because of a misjudgment. There’s a lot of people out there that might not be good in the game and we need to focus on that.”

Under asked by commission attorney Rick Goodell whether Rice received an unfair advantage, Englehart also said this–

“If Linda was receiving emails when no one else was, and I’m not 100 percent sure no one else was, maybe it isn’t a one-time happening … knowing it’s frowned upon now I would say no it’s not fair, but at the time I stand by what I said before and I don’t know if I wouldn’t have done the same thing.”

While Morales, a longtime acquaintance of Rice, characterized the gratuities and a couple of loans from Rice as consideration for the information he provided her, Turro depicted the relationship differently. Rice knew the Morales family many years and was close to them at a time several years ago when a car accident killed one of Jose’s teenaged siblings.

“I knew his lifestyle was — he was having a lot of problems as far as drinking, driving, domestic issues with his wife and whatnot,” Rice said. “I felt sorry for him because his life was somewhat of a mess. I always thought I knew, possibly, why.”

Turro also laid the groundwork for his closing argument, which will be that the commission should not suspend or revoke Rice’s license — both options on the table for the hearing officer according to the commission.

“I’ll urge that justice be done and the nightmare my client has been living through can end,” he said. “I will urge the hearing officer to allow her to continue training without further interruption.”

The hearing will continue Thursday.

See previous coverage of the hearing herehere, and here.


Andrew Turro Quoted In “Rice testifies that cash gifts were not in exchange for special treatment”

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Linda Rice acknowledged giving cash tips to members of the New York Racing Association racing office and gate crew, mostly at Christmas time, over a five-year period from 2010-14, but denied that the money was in exchange for special treatment such as the receipt of confidential information from the racing office when entering horses.

Rice also acknowledged that she gave the racing office and gate crew gratuities after she shared the 2011 Belmont Park spring/summer trainer’s title with Todd Pletcher and that she gave out a combined $7,400 in checks to 73 people following the 2009 Saratoga meet, in which she became the first female to win a trainer’s title at that prestigious meet.

Rice said she gave two loans, totaling $1,800, to Jose Morales Jr., a former racing clerk who was the primary person that Rice gave her entries to for a period of time when he worked in the racing office at NYRA from 2008-14. Rice had known Morales years before when Jose Morales Sr. was a jockey agent for Art Madrid, who Rice once dated. Jose Morales Jr., a key witness in this hearing, has a case before the Gaming Commission that has been pending for three years.

Rice testified Wednesday on the fifth day of her hearing brought by the New York State Gaming Commission, which is alleging that Rice has committed corrupt and improper acts and practices in relation to racing, from on or about the 2011-12 Aqueduct winter meet through March 15.

The Gaming Commission alleges that Rice received the names and past performances of horses entered in races that Rice was planning to or the racing office was hoping she would enter horses in. Over a three-month period – from Oct. 9, 2013 through Jan. 2, 2014 – there were 74 e-mails that included past performances of horses entered in races before those races were drawn – sent from Morales to Rice introduced earlier in the hearing.

The commission also alleges that Rice paid substantial sums of money for that information.

Following four days of testimony from Gaming Commission witnesses, Wednesday was the beginning of Rice’s defense. The hearings have been held in the Belmont room on the second floor at Belmont Park. The hearing officer in the case is Clark Petschek.

Rice said from 2010-14 she would give one member of the racing office – Morales – and one member of the gate crew – Mike McMullen – envelopes of cash to be dispersed to members of those departments. Rice said she gave $2,000 for the racing office and $2,400 to the gate crew, believing it would average out to $200 per person. She stopped the practice in 2015.

Rice said she would give the envelopes to Morales for the racing office and said “please give it to the racing office people, thank them, and wish them a Merry Christmas.”

Rice said when she would give the envelope to McMullen she told him “please spread it amongst the gate crew thank them for their time and patience and wish them a Merry Christmas.”

When asked by her attorney, Andrew Turro, “did you make any payments to induce anyone to do anything special for you?” Rice simply said “No.”

In 2009, Rice wrote checks to 73 individuals – members of the racing department, the gate crew, horsemen’s relations, jockey valets, clockers, and others – totaling $7,400 to celebrate her Saratoga trainer’s title. Racing office and gate crew personnel each got $200, while everybody else got $50.

“When I got back to Belmont I wanted to share my excitement with everyone at NYRA,” Rice said. “I decided to give a gratuity and a thank you note.”

Two racing office personnel – Andrew Byrnes and Bill Nemeti – did not cash their checks. Byrnes, NYRA’s long-time stakes coordinator, testified in this case on Nov. 4 that he did not feel comfortable accepting the money.

Earlier in the day, Rice testified that racing officials, from 2011-13 when there was a perceived shortage of horses, called her and other trainers with more frequency to try and hustle horses into races. Rice said racing office staff would provide more information such as descriptions of horses who were in the race and at times names and past performances.

“The hustling of races became much more aggressive,” Rice said. “They gave out a lot of information, more information than they were accustomed to giving out. It was a terrible struggle for the racing office to fill a card five days a week.”

Rice also said that sometimes members of the racing department would get aggressive when attempting to hustle horses. She specifically named Trinity Galarza, who previously worked in the racing office as an assistant racing secretary.

“When I didn’t go in these races she’d call me and be pretty abrasive,” Rice said. “If I had entered in a race and it was not going to fill . . . they’d need help to fill a different race. ‘We need your help in the fourth.’ When I did not put a horse in, the assistant was pretty aggressive. If I didn’t respond to the entry clerks in a positive manner, she was pretty aggressive.”

Trainers Jeremiah Englehart and Jimmy Ferraro both testified on Rice’s behalf. Both trainers talked about getting information, mostly verbally and not electronically, about races the racing office was trying to fill.

Englehart testified that there are other ways to get past performances of horses and that just a trainer doing their homework would be able to get an idea of which horses would be pointing to specific races. He said he pays $200 per month for an online program that allows him to access past performances for any horse he wants to see.

While Englehart testified that he was never sent past performances electronically by the racing office, he indicated he might have accepted them if offered.

“I couldn’t have said I wouldn’t have used it if they were wanting help to fill races,” Englehart said. “There were times where I had information that was given to me because they were looking to bulk up their field size.”

When specifically asked if the information Rice was given constituted cheating, Englehart said, “If it was brought to me, I don’t believe so.”


Andrew J. Turro Named Touro Law Center’s “Public Interest Attorney of the Year”

On Wednesday, November 18th, Touro Law Center recognized Meyer Suozzi attorney, Andrew J. Turro as their “Public Interest Attorney of the Year” for his outstanding Pro-Bono service at the virtual Touro Law Center’s Goods & Services Auction, which is co-chaired by Lois C. Schlissel. This event benefits the school’s Public Interest Law Fellowship Program, which was created to encourage and facilitate the placement of students in public interest law employment.


Randall Eng, A. Thomas Levin and Michael Antongiovanni Obtained Restraining Order Preventing City “Busway”

Meyer Suozzi attorneys, Hon. (ret.) Randall T. Eng, A. Thomas Levin and Michael J. Antongiovanni, recently obtained an emergency restraining order on behalf of their clients, enjoining the New York City Department of Transportation and other city respondents from implementing a plan to convert a certain portion of Main Street in Flushing, Queens, to an exclusive “busway” that would have prevented private vehicular traffic from freely traversing the roadway.  The restraining order provides necessary protection for the businesses of this thriving commercial hub, which depend heavily upon such consumer traffic and accessibility.

Click here to read more about the ban published in the New York Post article, “Long-delayed Flushing busway put on hold by judge’s ban, lawsuit.”