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Belville v. Illinois Racing Board

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 28, 1984.

E. MANUEL BELVILLE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ILLINOIS RACING BOARD, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MCNAMARA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, E. Manuel Belville, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County which upheld a decision of defendant Illinois Racing Board. Defendant ordered that plaintiff's racing license as a jockey be suspended for life for possession of a battery on the grounds of Sportsman's Park racetrack on March 30, 1983. Possession of a battery, a small electrical device used to affect the outcome of races by shocking and stimulating racehorses, is prohibited by the Illinois Horse Racing Act and is grounds for suspension or revocation of a racing license. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 8, pars. 37-37(a), (c).

On appeal, plaintiff contends that defendant's decision is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; that the statute involved is unconstitutionally vague; that defendant acted unreasonably in imposing a lifetime suspension as a penalty and thus denied due process to plaintiff; that since the board of stewards exonerated plaintiff, defendant could not review that exoneration; and that defendant improperly refused to disclose the identity of its informant.

On March 30, 1983, plaintiff was scheduled to ride the horse Gimme Mo in the first race at Sportsman's Park. Plaintiff was hired on March 29 when it was learned that the original jockey had a scheduling conflict. Each horse entered in a race has a pony person who, while riding a pony, leads the racehorse and jockey from the paddock to the starting gate and controls the horse during the prerace warm-up. The pony person for Gimme Mo in the race was Lisa Zentner, who was hired that morning, also as a result of a scheduling conflict with the original pony person.

Approximately 20 minutes before the race, Jack Halloran, director of security for the racetrack, received a tip from an informant that at the starting gate an electrical device would be given to the jockey on the No. 4 horse, Gimme Mo, in the first race and would be used by the jockey during the race. In response to the tip, Halloran and three security officers stationed themselves in the warm-up area of the track.

One of the officers, Gene Oliver, observed the horses as they moved down the track. After the first three horses passed him, Oliver walked onto the track and called for the No. 4 horse. Plaintiff and Zentner continued down the track and Oliver called them a second time. Before the two riders returned to Oliver, a battery fell between plaintiff and Zentner onto the track. Another officer retrieved the battery and gave it to Oliver.

After a hearing, the board of stewards, on April 2, 1983, found Zentner guilty of possession of a battery and suspended her racing license for three years. Zentner appealed to defendant, and after a hearing, defendant reversed the stewards' ruling and reinstated Zentner's license. Defendant also issued a rule to show cause containing a complaint against plaintiff for possession of a battery. After conducting hearings, defendant found that plaintiff possessed a battery on March 30 and suspended his racing license for life. The trial court upheld that decision.

Halloran testified at the Zentner hearing and at plaintiff's hearing that on March 30 he stood beside the fence with a view of the horses on the track. As plaintiff and Zentner passed in front of him, Halloran saw an object, later determined to be a battery, drop from Zentner's right hand. Halloran stated that Zentner had the lead to plaintiff's horse in her left hand, and her right hand was empty.

Oliver testified at both hearings that after he shouted at plaintiff and Zentner to bring their horses to him, he saw plaintiff sit back on his horse and move his hands toward his waist. Oliver observed plaintiff fumbling with his hands and saw his hands go to his belt line. At that time, Zentner was holding the reins to her pony in her left hand and the lead to plaintiff's horse in her right hand. Oliver saw the two riders' hands move together, and the battery fell from one of the four hands. Oliver was unable to say from whose hand it fell. After the officer who recovered the battery gave it Oliver, Oliver pressed one prong of the battery and heard a buzzing sound. That sound indicated that the battery was live. Oliver testified that he signed the complaint which charged Zentner with possession of a battery. He did not prepare the complaint and merely signed it at the request of superiors. Oliver also prepared a report which summarized information received from Halloran and the other officers. This report recited that plaintiff and Zentner appeared to handle an object which fell from Zentner's hand. After reviewing the report, Oliver was still unable to say from whose hand the battery fell.

Don Morley, a pony person for another horse in the race, testified at both hearings that when Oliver called for the No. 4 horse, Morley saw plaintiff with his right hand inside his waistband. Morley did not see plaintiff's hand come out of his waistband, nor did he see the battery fall to the track. Morley saw that Zentner was holding the pony reins in her left hand and the lead to plaintiff's horse in her right hand.

Gene Ford, another pony person in the race, testified at plaintiff's hearing that he was looking directly at plaintiff after Oliver called for the No. 4 horse. Ford saw plaintiff reach toward his pants and then place his hand into the top of his waistband. Ford testified at Zentner's hearing but was asked only if he had seen a battery.

Laurie Lebeck, the person who hired Zentner, testified at Zentner's hearing that she saw a battery in plaintiff's hand in 1982. At plaintiff's hearing, Lebeck testified that she had never seen plaintiff with a battery.

Heriberto Arroyo, the senior steward in Illinois, testified at both hearings. Arroyo knew plaintiff for 16 years, and in that time plaintiff's integrity was never questioned. Arroyo had never seen a pony person hold both the pony's reins and the racehorse lead in one hand. Arroyo believed that it would be difficult or impossible for a pony person to pull up from a slow gallop if the reins and lead were held in one hand. Arroyo also believed that a jockey's belt was one of the most logical places to conceal a battery. Arroyo stated at plaintiff's hearing that the witnesses at Zentner's hearing did not testify under oath.

Benjamin Winnett, a pony person in the race, testified at the Zentner hearing that when Oliver called for the No. 4 horse, Winnett was able to observe Zentner's hands. She held her pony reins in her left hand and the lead to the racehorse in the right hand. Winnett was unable ...


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