Martin Files Suit Against Indiana Commission

Latest round in ongoing dispute between horse owner and racing commission.

Ed Martin Jr., a former car dealer instrumental in getting horse racing established in Indiana, has filed a federal suit against the Indiana Horse Racing Commission stemming from an investigation into horses kept at his farm in Florida last year.

The suit is the latest round in an ongoing dispute between Martin, the former executive director of the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the commission, and its executive, Joe Gorajec.

Martin was banned from all racetracks in the Hoosier state for one year for an alleged license violation stemming from his former position with the ITOBA (see story). The commission determined that as part of his duties with the ITOBA, Martin should have been licensed by the regulatory body. Martin, who resigned from the ITOBA in November 2010, claimed the commission’s rules did not require him to possess a license and that as a result the ban on him from racetracks was not merited.

The federal suit filed in the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis lists the racing commission, Gorajec, Terry Richwine, Sarah McNaught, Joe Davis, Randy Klopp, and Liane Puccia as defendants. Richwine is the director of security for the IHRC, McNaught chairs the commission, Davis is a board member of the Indiana Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Klopp is the IHBPA’s president, and Puccia is a veterinarian, according to court documents.

The sequence of events leading to the April 12, 2010, investigation on his Florida farm, Martin Stables South, began when Puccia sent written correspondence, at the request of Gorajec, to Davis and Klopp alleging that Martin “was responsible for various criminal acts of abuse and neglect of horses at Martin Stable South,” the suit states.

Then, Richwine, “without jurisdiction over Mr. Martin’s activities in Florida, without a warrant, and without Mr. Martin’s consent, trespassed upon Mr. Martin’s property in Florida and conducted an unlawful search thereof,” according to the suit.

Martin claims the investigation was in retaliation for Martin’s various legal and advocacy initiatives in his capacity with the ITOBA and were an effort to “prevent Mr. Martin, by threat and intimidation, from engaging in any further legal and advocacy initiatives concerning horse racing in Indiana and/or IHRC,” according to the complaint.

The Horse Protection Association of Florida issued written correspondence on Sept. 20, 2010, in which the organization detailed its “independent investigation of the alleged wrongdoing by Mr. Martin and Martin Stables South, exonerating Mr. Martin from any wrongdoing,” the federal suit states.

Martin claims in the suit that all of the defendants “have conspired to interfere with Mr. Martin’s civil rights,” and that an object of “the conspiracy was to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, Mr. Martin from giving his support or advocacy in a legal matter.”

Martin is seeking $700,000 in compensatory damages, together with punitive damages, from each of the defendants.

In a statement, Gorajec said, “The lawsuit is baseless--utterly without merit. The Indiana State Police and the Indiana Inspector General have already investigated complaints on this matter. They found no wrongdoing by the commission or the commission staff.”