Pa. Racing Commission upholds ejection of Parx trainer

Posted: June 22, 2012

FIVE MONTHS after a Harrisburg hearing on the appeal by Parx Racing's leading trainer of his 10-year ejection, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission issued a ruling Thursday that "affirmed" the track's ejection of Carlos Guerrero over a disputed encounter with a female worker.

Near the end of the commission's regularly scheduled monthly meeting, commission counsel Jorge Augusto read the very brief ruling. The meeting, held in Kennett Square at the New Bolton Center's Woerner Auditorium, ended moments later.

When approached for an explanation of what went into the decision, Dr. Corrine Sweeney, commission chairwoman and chief executive at New Bolton, said she could not talk about it. Augusto said he would send a copy of the hearing officer's reasoning to Guerrero's attorney, William Goldman Jr. According to Augusto, the hearing officer, Jackie Lutz, agreed with the track's ejection. The timing of her ruling was not available.. The commission could have agreed with her opinion, altered it or ignored it.

"Once I have an opportunity review the adjudication, I'm going to discuss with Carlos his options and we'll take it from there," Goldman said.

One of those options is an appeal to Commonwealth Court. Guerrero, meanwhile, is training horses in New York state.

Guerrero was ejected on Dec. 20, 2011, as the result of an incident in the track's administration building, right inside the stable gate. He was charged by Bensalem police with misdemeanor indecent assault not long before the ejection. Soon after the ejection, the Bucks County District Attorney's office chose not to prosecute.

At a hearing Jan. 17, it was established that Guerrero and Stephanie Nicole Smith, an employee of the horsemen's group, had a cordial relationship in which they regularly exchanged hugs. It was agreed that on Nov. 16, Guerrero not only hugged Smith, but also put a "hand on her butt." Smith testified that Guerrero pushed her into a room and kissed her against her will. Guerrero testified that neither of those things happened.

Also, at the Harrisburg hearing, a former female jockey who had never filed a complaint against Guerrero, testified that he had sexually harassed her in 2010. Guerrero denied it.

Even if it is accepted that the women told the complete truth, the most curious part of this has always been the length of the ejection. Ten years was the track's number, and the commission agreed.

"I'm taken aback by the fact that the racing commission affirmed the hearing examiner," Goldman said. "I'm taken aback that the hearing examiner found the witnesses to be credible."

The most fascinating part of the Harrisburg hearing was the testimony of Lance Morell, Parx security director. Asked whether he had talked to Bucks County Detective John Knowles about the Nov. 16 incident, he said he had not. Knowles was working on the case for the DA's office. When Morell was asked by Goldman whether he said he was happy Guerrero was being targeted and had said "good?…?he's been a target of ours," Morell said that was "absolutely untrue."

A few minutes after Morell testified, Knowles testified that that he had spoken with Morell and that when he explained to him the subject of the investigation, Morell cut him off and "began to tell me how pleased he was that we were targeting Mr. Guerrero?…?that he has tested his horses and his horses have come in clean?…?and he said that he's glad we're going to get this guy."

The hearing transcript was nearly 400 pages long, with about 360 witness testimony for and against Guerrero. There was a lot of he said/she said and that one example of two men who could not even agree on whether they had talked.   

Contact Dick Jerardi at jerardd@phillynews.com.

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