A judge in Indiana has issued a contempt citation and is levying a $1,000-an-hour fine against the owners of Rosecroft Raceway for violating a court order not to pursue a separate legal action in Maryland against a former business partner.
Thomas Chuckas Jr., chief executive of Cloverleaf Enterprises, the company that owns the Prince George's County harness racing track, called the ruling by Marion County Superior Court Judge Thomas Carroll "outrageous."
He said Cloverleaf has been treated unfairly by the court in Indiana in a legal dispute with its former partner, Centaur Rosecroft LLC.
The former partner was incorporated in Maryland by the principals of an Indiana-based gambling company, Centaur, Inc.
Centaur filed a lawsuit in the fall asking the Indiana court to block the track's owners from striking a new deal with any other potential buyer.
When Coverleaf filed a legal motion this week in Maryland seeking a speedy ruling on whether it had properly ended the partnership with Centaur, Carroll cited Cloverleaf with contempt late Wednesday.
He ordered Cloverleaf to pay Centaur $1,000 an hour until Cloverleaf withdraws the Maryland legal action. The judge's order says the money is "to be paid within three days after each 24-hour period."
A Centaur spokesman said the legal action in Indiana was filed before the one in Maryland and should take precedence.
But Chuckas said that Cloverleaf will not withdraw the legal motions or drop the case it brought in Maryland, despite the Indiana judge's order.
"Both companies in this dispute are Maryland companies," Chuckas said.
"The property involved in this dispute is a Maryland property," he said. "The contract calls for issues to be adjudicated under Maryland law. Therefore, we believe the case should be handled in a Maryland court."
Rosecroft has become entangled in a string of lawsuits that some lawmakers say threaten its ability to remain a contender for a license for slot machine gambling.
The lawsuits were sparked when Cloverleaf acted late last year to terminate a partnership deal that had given Centaur exclusive rights to buy the track.
The agreement, signed in September 2002, set a Nov. 1 deadline for Centaur to purchase the track -- which it failed to meet.
Centaur's lawyers say the delay in meeting the deadline was related to pending regulatory matters, which triggered an automatic extension.
Since ending its relationship with Centaur, Cloverleaf has signed a deal to sell Rosecroft to a new partner -- Mark Ricigliano, a Laurel veterinarian long affiliated with the racetrack. Ricigliano has taken on a partner for the venture, Greenwood Racing Inc., owner of Philadelphia Park racetrack.
The legal disputes shouldn't derail consideration of the Ricigliano group's application for a license, according to Mike Hopkins, the Maryland Racing Commission's executive director.