Calif. Horseman Found in Contempt, Fined

Michael Power was fined for making false statements about CTBA officer John Harris.

Horse owner Michael Power was found in contempt and fined by a Fresno County Superior Court for violating a court order that prohibited him from making false and defamatory statements about California Thoroughbred Breeders Association director John Harris, who had a stay away order against Power. Judge Mark Snauffer fined Power $1,000 and also order him to pay Harris’ attorney’s fees, which totaled $1,750.

The court order, issued Aug. 12, identified five statements made on Feb. 12 and Feb. 18, 2008, that were found to be "false, defamatory, unprivileged, and had a natural tendency to injure the reputation of Petitioner John Harris." Power reportedly distributed these statements by e-mail through an organization called CTBAboardwatch, a self-proclaimed California horse industry watchdog.

One of the largest Thoroughbred breeders in the state, Harris is also vice chairman of the California Horse Racing Board.

Power, who represented himself during two hearings in June, said in an e-mail to The Blood-Horse that he thought the judge’s order found Harris’ petition largely without merit with the exception of one incident in which Power stated that Harris, rather than Harris Farm (a Coalinga, Calif., farm that Harris owns), was fined $1 million for disregarding an employee’s federally protected rights.

"Other than that admitted mistake, I was not found guilty of anything the CTBA press release claims," Power wrote Aug. 29. "Mr. Harris is a well known public figure, and he should learn to accept criticisms about his performance instead of whining about them."

No where in the Snauffer’s court order does he use the word "meritless." The judge wrote: "The Court finds the Respondent had knowledge of the Stay Away Agreement and Order, had the ability to comply with the Stay Away Agreement and Order, and willfully violated the Stay Away Agreement and Order by virtue of the foregoing conduct." The judge further warned Power that failure to comply with the court order could result in more sanctions and possible confinement.