Ex-horse race workers saddle up and sue Spitzer
By Nicole Bode
Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 10th 2008, 12:33 AM
A pair of vindicated horse racing workers slapped ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer with a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday, claiming his professional ambition fueled a legal witch hunt that cost them their jobs and reputations.
Former New York Racing Association employees Mario Sclafani, 51, of Dutchess County, and Braulio Baeza, 68, of West Virginia, were cleared in September 2007 of charges they rigged races by accepting bribes from overweight jockeys trying to bluff the scale.
Spitzer, then the attorney general, spearheaded the NYRA corruption indictment in 2005.
A Saratoga judge tossed out the charges midtrial, citing unreliable evidence from prosecutors such as improperly calibrated scales and failure to account for the jockeys' gear in the measurements.
"From the beginning, the prosecution did not make sense," said lawyer Todd Greenberg, who filed the federal suit with Paul DerOhannesian.
The suit also names half a dozen other individuals from the NYRA, the attorney general's office and the state police - claiming they maliciously prosecuted the pair.
The lawyers said they will have to overcome immunity charges that protect prosecutors and investigators doing their job.