Judge Considered Incarcerated Curlin Owners Flight Risks

Two owners of Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Curlin were deemed flight risks by a judge presiding over a criminal trial in which they are involved, an opinion which led directly to the defendants' immediate incarceration.

Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion had their bonds revoked Aug. 10 by U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman in the criminal trial involving them and fellow attorney Melbourne Mills Jr. The three are charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud in their handling of the class-action settlement for the diet drug Fen-Phen.

In an Aug. 13 court filing, Gallion appealed the ruling by Bertelsman on his bond revocation and incarceration to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. It isn't immediately clear if Cunningham and Mills will follow suit, as attempts to contact their respective attorneys were unsuccessful.

In ruling for the defendants’ motion to postpone the original Oct. 15 trial start, Bertelsman declared the three men flight risks. The judge noted in a written opinion that the criminal indictment alleges the defendants fraudulently received $46 million in the settlement, while it was ruled in a separate civil lawsuit that victims are entitled to a recovery of $42 million.

“Yet no one knows where the substantial part of these monies is,” Bertlesman wrote. “The court finds that there is a serious risk that the funds will be moved off-shore, and that with these funds at their disposal, the defendants will flee to a country with which the United States has no extradition treaty or otherwise disappear.”

The judge's order further said that if convicted, the defendants could possibly face 20 years imprisonment. Noting the age ranges of the defendants, Bertlesman wrote “they have a tremendous motive to stonewall,” but agreed to the postponement of the trial start anyway. Cunningham and Gallion are 52 and 56, respectively, while Mills is 76.

The new start date for the trial is Jan. 7, 2008. It will be held at federal courthouse in Covington, Ky.

Cunningham and Gallion own Curlin, along with Satish Sanan’s Padua Stables, Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables, and George Bolton.

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