Case Closed: Murray Rojas Conviction Vacated, Feds Will Not Seek Second Trial - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Case Closed: Murray Rojas Conviction Vacated, Feds Will Not Seek Second Trial

The federal case against Penn National trainer Murray Rojas has been closed after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the conviction against her on drug misbranding charges and prosecutors opted not to pursue a second trial.

The Sept. 28 order signed by federal Judge Sylvia H. Rambo called for a second superseding indictment to be dismissed and for the clerk of court to close the case. Rambo was the trial judge in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

In July 2017, a jury convicted Rojas on 14 of 21 counts  of misbranding prescription drugs brought against her as part of a wide-ranging FBI investigation into corruption at Penn National race course in Grantville, Pa. She was found not guilty on seven counts of wire fraud.

Rojas was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. Rambo denied a motion to overturn the conviction and the Court of Appeals upheld it. 

Last year, however, attorneys for Rojas – with support from the Cato Institute and the American Conservative Union Foundation – petitioned the Supreme Court to hear her case, claiming that the trial judge and appellate court erred  in their definition of misbranding in both jury instructions and in the appeal. Specifically, they said, the judge failed to instruct the jury properly on the distinction between “administering” drugs and “dispensing” them and that the government failed to prove that Rojas “dispensed” the drugs to her horses.

The U.S.solicitor general agreed, stating: “The government now acknowledges that a veterinarian who personally injects a drug into an animal under her direct care in the course of her professional practice, without first issuing a written or oral order (i.e., prescription), has not engaged in misbranding under the FDCA (1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act).”

On Nov. 1, 2021, the Supreme Court granted Rojas' petition to review her case and vacated the judgment against her, remanding it back to District Court. With the government stating it would not pursue a second trial, the case is closed.

Rojas was accused of having veterinarians administer medications to horses within 24 hours of a race in violation of state regulations. Veterinarians who testified in the case say they also falsified dates of the treatments in records submitted to regulators. The practice, according to testimony given during the trial, was widespread at Penn National. Stephanie Beattie, who had been three-time leading trainer there, said she routinely had her horses treated with therapeutic medications on race day, adding “Almost everybody did: 95 to 98 percent. It was a known practice. We wanted to win and they weren't testing for those drugs at that time.”

Rojas, who began training in 2000 and saddled 785 winners from 4,783 starts, has not saddled a horse in a race since August 2015, when she was indicted. A number of other licensees who were indicted, including racing officials, trainers, and veterinarians, either pleaded guilty or had their cases transferred from federal to state court on reduced charges.

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