LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Jockey Robby Albarado was convicted Thursday of assaulting his former girlfriend during a scuffle for his phone, the latest setback for the veteran rider who has been embroiled in legal turmoil the last two years.
Albarado, who has won more than 4,300 races, including the 2007 Preakness aboard Curlin, looked on glumly as the Jefferson County District Court jury convicted him of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor. The jury recommended he pay a $500 fine but serve no jail time.
But Albarado will be back in court next week for a hearing on whether he violated terms of his conditional release in a prior assault case.
"This sends the message that domestic violence is taken seriously by this community ... and this kind of behavior carries with it a penalty," Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the county attorney's office, said after Thursday's verdict.
Albarado and his attorney, David Lambertus, declined comment as they walked past news cameras.
The trial started earlier this week and included tearful testimony from Albarado's ex-girlfriend, Carolina Martinez.
Albarado was accused of assaulting Martinez during a late-night confrontation at his home in April. He was arrested a few days later, hours before he was to ride in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Albarado was scratched from eight races on Oaks day and another eight races that were part of the Kentucky Derby card the following day. Albarado did not have a ride in the Derby.
After his arrest, he was suspended from racing by a committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but that action later was blocked by a judge, allowing him to continue riding.
The jury of three men and three women deliberated 4 1-2 hours before convicting Albarado of a wanton assault, meaning his reckless actions led to her injuries but he might not have meant to hurt her. The jury found him not guilty of intentional assault.
During closing arguments, Lambertus said Martinez sparked the confrontation by barging unannounced into the jockey's home late at night during Kentucky Derby week. She grabbed his cell phone and listened to a message from another woman, Lambertus said.
Albarado asked for his phone back but she took it into the bathroom with her, the defense attorney said. The phone was essential for Albarado's livelihood, since it had contact and scheduling information that's vital to his racing career, he said.
"How offended would you be?" Lambertus asked the jury.
They wrestled for the phone and both fell, he said. Albarado never touched her after getting the phone back, he said.
Prosecutor Susan Ely portrayed the confrontation much differently. She said Albarado was expecting Martinez to come to his house so they could discuss their relationship. He got a couple of calls after her arrival but didn't answer them, Ely said.
The prosecutor acknowledged that Martinez listened to the jockey's voice mail and called another woman listed on the phone. Albarado then bolted toward her, and Martinez took refuge in the bathroom, the prosecutor said.
"She saw the look in his eyes ... and she was scared," Ely said.
Martinez was willing to give him back the phone once he calmed down, but until then she considered the phone her "lifeline," Ely said.
"He intended to hurt her," she said.
Ely showed the jury photos of Martinez's bruises from the altercation. Martinez also suffered a shoulder injury.
Sentencing in the case was set for next month.
Before then, Albarado is due back in court next week for a revocation hearing in the previous assault case.
Last year, Albarado was charged with wanton endangerment and domestic assault related to an altercation with his wife. Those charges later were dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to attempting to interfere with a witness. His sentence was conditionally discharged for two years, but next week's hearing will delve into whether he violated terms of the conditional release.
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