Justice in Kentucky is SlipperyPosted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on October 27th, 2008
Just like doctors, lawyers, accountants and architects, Thoroughbred horse trainers have to be licensed to practice their profession. The licensing agency in Kentucky, is the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). When licensed Thoroughbred horse trainer Joseph D. “J.D.” Crescini pleaded guilty to 16 counts of animal cruelty in Nelson County Circuit Court (for conduct that resulted in the deaths of two horses and the profound suffering of 12 other horses) this fall, I fully expected Mr. Crescini’s days as a licensed Thoroughbred trainer to be over, permanently. So, I did a bit of research before I wrote to the KHRC encouraging them to approve the maximum sanction. I was disappointed to learn that KHRC lacks the authority to permanently revoke a trainer’s license. Rather, the maximum duration of a revocation the KHRC can impose is five years. 810 KAR 1:28. That needs to be changed for future cases.
However, in the meantime, Mr. Crescini had his administrative hearing and the KHRC Stewards found Mr. Crescini in violation of 810 KAR 1:008 (breach of obligation to provide proper care) and 810 KAR 1:025(3)(15& 19) (animal cruelty & acting in a manner inconsistent with the best interests of horse racing).Their sanction: a two-year revocation of his license to train Thoroughbred horses. Wow, that’s a very generous outcome, to say the least. Is Mr. Crescini satisfied? Apparently not, because he’s served notice of his intent to appeal to the full commission.
Given the degree of suffering, the number of animals involved and the aggravated nature of these violations, to say nothing of the obvious breach of his duties as a licensed trainer, the maximum revocation term is more than warranted, even if it is only five years. As the court noted in Deaton v. KHRA, 172 SW 3rd 803 (2005), the KHRA has great latitude in setting sanctions.
It’s one thing for a trainer to be held strictly liable for an owner drugging a racehorse, where a 150-day suspension was upheld (as was the case in Deaton), but it is quite another for a licensed Thoroughbred trainer to kill two horses by starvation, while another 12 horses suffered profound neglect that is tantamount to torture via neglect by starvation. Additionally, one would hope that the full commission would opt to not allow Mr. Crescini to buy his way out of a revocation under 810 KAR 1:28(9) (authorizing a $5,000 fine in lieu of a suspension or revocation).
Say what you will about the status of the animal protection laws of Kentucky, but the legislative policy statement codified in KRS § 230.215 is unambiguous—the KHRC possesses not just the discretion, but the duty to “exclude undesirables” from this industry. Based on his admitted conduct, Mr. Crescini is one such undesirable who has no place in this industry.
Here’s hoping that the full commission agrees.