Court Of Appeals Upholds Murray Rojas Felony Conviction On Drug Misbranding At Penn National - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Court Of Appeals Upholds Murray Rojas Felony Conviction On Drug Misbranding At Penn National

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Monday upheld the 2017 felony conviction of trainer Murray Rojas, who was found guilty in a jury trial on 14 counts of misbranding prescription drugs over a 13-year period from 2002-14 at Penn National racetrack in Grantville, Pa.

Rojas was subsequently sentenced to 27 months of imprisonment, two years of supervised released, a $5,000 fine and $1,400 special assessment.

She was found not guilty at the trial on charges of wire fraud.

Rojas was charged as part of an FBI investigation into corruption at Penn National that yielded guilty pleas from four veterinarians, a clocker, trainer and racing office employee. Rojas is the only person charged that went to trial.

Witnesses testified that Rojas instructed veterinarians to administer medication to her horses within 24 hours of a race in violation of Pennsylvania law or that she administered the drugs herself. Veterinarians admitted they misdated treatment sheets and billing records to cover up the violations.

Rojas was denied an opportunity during the trial to put forth an expert witness who would testify that the drugs Rojas was having administered were therapeutic and not performance enhancing, but Judge Rambo ruled that was irrelevant because state law bars all drugs within 24 hours with a limited exception.

After her conviction, Rojas filed a motion for acquittal with District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo, but that motion was denied. Her attorney, Robert E. Goldman, then filed an appeal on the following grounds:

  • That the District Court failed to instruct the jury properly on a distinction between “administering” drugs or “dispensing” them.
  • That the government's evidence to convict on misbranding charges was insufficient because it did not establish Rojas dispensed drugs rather than have them administered.
  • That the District Court erred in permitting a Stewards Ruling to be entered into evidence
  • That Rojas should have been permitted to provide evidence that the drugs were therapeutic rather than performance enhancing.
  • That the government did not present evidence that Rojas engaged in fraud or attempted to cover up her activities, which her attorneys said was required to convict on felony charges

The Court of Appeals judges who heard the case disagreed on all five counts. Because the full court did not participate, the ruling is considered non-precedential.

The case was heard by Circuit Judges Michael A. Chagares, Anthony J. Scirica and Jane R. Roth. The government was represented by William A. Behe from the United States Attorney's Office in Harrisburg, Pa.

Rojas has the right to file for a rehearing before the Court of Appeals. If that fails, she may petition to the United States Supreme Court.

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