Monday, July 25, 2011
Ex-Anthony Galea assistant avoids jail
By Mike Fish
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mary Anne Catalano, the former lead assistant to a Canadian doctor accused of treating professional athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, avoided jail time as expected and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation Monday in a U.S. District Court.
Judge Richard Arcara could have imposed a one-year prison term under federal sentencing guidelines, but Catalano, 33, benefited from her cooperation with federal authorities in the subsequent investigation of her former boss, Dr. Anthony Galea.
Federal prosecutors recommended the lesser sentence of probation while describing her cooperation as "a significant and substantial factor in obtaining a felony conviction'' against Galea, a Toronto-based physician who earlier this month pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of bringing unapproved drugs, including human growth hormone and Actovegin, into the United States.
Judge Arcara described the government's recommendation for probation as "very unusual," saying her thorough cooperation made his decision "an easy sentence" to hand down.
"I think I've seen one of these in 10 years," the judge said.
Galea, 51, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 19, at which he could get up to two years in prison. Prior to his legal troubles, Galea had a reputation as a go-to doctor for injured elite athletes, among them golfer Tiger Woods, New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and New York Mets teammates Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes -- none of whom have been linked by authorities to performance-enhancing drugs.
Major League Baseball had two representatives at the sentencing. Daniel Mullin, MLB's vice president of investigations, and assistant Victor Burgos were scheduled to meet with Catalano's attorney, Rod Personius, on Monday afternoon. They requested the meeting with Personius, who described it as a "courtesy call," and said Catalano would not be present.
"She can't cooperate [with MLB investigators] until Galea is sentenced," Personius said. Asked if she later would cooperate, he said, "probably not."
In a recent federal steroids-related case in San Francisco, the U.S. Attorney's Office required convicted steroid dealer Kirk Radomski to cooperate with investigators for baseball's Mitchell report, which eventually brought up the name of Roger Clemens and later led to perjury charges being brought against one of the game's most decorated pitchers. Radomski was on the witness list for proceedings against Clemens earlier this month in Washington, which ended abruptly in a mistrial.
William Hochul Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, offered a starkly different position Monday, saying there is no requirement for either Catalano or Galea to cooperate with an outside investigation.
"We enforce criminal law, period," Hochul told ESPN. "Whether any third party wants to talk [to them], you are always able to. But it is no requirement."
Hochul refused to say whether his office has been contacted by either MLB or NFL officials.
For her part, Catalano pleaded guilty last year to initially making false statements to border agents when stopped entering the country in September 2009. Catalano first became associated with Galea as a 15-year-old helping out in his Toronto office and later joined his practice full-time after earning a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo.
Catalano's defense counsel cast her as being blindly loyal to Galea. "She looked up to him,'' Personius said. "If he told her to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, she would. This was exciting for her.''
At the time of her arrest, Catalano had in her possession a duffle bag with medical supplies and drugs that Galea had asked her to bring across the border because he'd earlier been flagged by authorities. She told agents she was headed to a medical conference in Washington, D.C., where Galea was to speak. In fact, Catalano later told authorities she was to meet Galea in Washington, where he was scheduled to provide medical treatment to a professional athlete.
According to documents later obtained by ESPN, Catalano identified 23 athletes during interviews with U.S. and Canadian authorities whom she said Galea treated in the U.S. during a two-month period in the summer of 2009. Catalano told authorities she witnessed Galea inject a cocktail mixture containing Nutropin (growth hormone) into the injured knee of "at least seven athletes'' while traveling with him in the United States.
Agents also seized her company cell phone and laptop computer, which sources say contained records as well as detailed information on the treatments Galea administered to the pro athletes on trips across the border.
Galea is not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, but Catalano told authorities she accompanied the doctor while he treated athletes in eight major U.S. cities during the summer of 2009. She described Galea as having met athletes in "hotel rooms and their homes'' to provide various medical treatments.
The pro athletes, some of whom had multiple treatments from Galea, have not been identified in court documents, though it is presumed the majority are football and baseball players. Court filings listed at least three unidentified NFL players.
Among the items seized by Canadian authorities during a search of Galea's office were an "NFL file folder,'' "Professional Players Journal'' and "daytimer with football dates.'' Also seized was a "CFL [Canadian Football League] folder.''
Like in other prominent steroid-related cases, federal authorities have not shown an interest in pursuing charges against athletes for their use or treatment with performance-enhancing drugs. But like with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, authorities may be open to bringing perjury charges if they find through the cooperation received by Catalano and Galea that athletes may have lied to federal investigators or a grand jury.
Galea made dozens of trips to the United States from 2007 through September 2009 to care for prominent athletes with a variety of blood treatments.
Catalano advised authorities that in his trips to the States, Galea typically performed procedures aimed at speeding up the healing process. Some of the treatments involved injections of human growth hormone, banned by major sports, and Actovegin, a derivative of calf's blood not approved for use in the United States.
In a pre-sentencing report filed with the court, Catalano acknowledged packing the substances Galea used to treat athletes when he came across the border and also scheduling the athlete meetings. She often traveled with him and was in attendance when he treated the athletes, which is why MLB investigators already have asked to interview her. NFL officials are expected to make a similar request. It's unlikely she'll cooperate with outside investigations, however, unless pushed by the government.
Catalano's attorneys' presentencing report also included seven letters from family and friends, the orthopaedic surgeon who now employs her, as well as religious leaders, including her Catholic parish priest, Rev. George Galea [no relation to Dr. Galea]. Catalano wrote the judge that her priorities got out of whack when Dr. Galea promoted her to his executive assistant in 2007, saying: "I was now representing Dr. Galea directly to many high profile patients and I felt additional pressure not to disappoint.''
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com.