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Judge clears Kraft in race track case

June 17, 1997

DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and the Foxboro Park harness racing track, has been cleared of wrongdoing in dealing with track operator Charles Sarkis.

Judge Gordon Doerfer’s ruling Monday in Norfolk Superior Court clears the way for Kraft to begin proceedings to evict Sarkis and for state racing officials to consider a petition to revoke Sarkis’ racing license.

Last month, a jury in the same court ruled that Kraft had not defrauded Sarkis.

Sarkis claimed he invested $11 million in the track and had an oral agreement with Kraft to lease it for 35 years.

Kraft bought the track last year and said he considered building a new stadium for the Patriots on the site or using it for additional parking.

Doerfer held that Sarkis invested in the track because he thought the Legislature would expand gambling in the state and legalize slot machines at the four race tracks in the state.

``Kraft did nothing to encourage Sarkis, who needed no encouragement whatsoever to keep his dream of expanded gambling alive,″ Doerfer said in his ruling.

Doerfer also vindicated Thomas Aronson, a Virginia racing consultant, who has petitioned the state Racing Commission to take over Sarkis’ Foxboro racing license. Kraft supports Aronson.

Sarkis opposed Aronson’s petition, maintaining Aronson was a straw for Kraft.

Doerfer ruled that Aronson’s company is ``an independent entity not subject to Mr. Kraft’s control, and it did not as a straw or shill for Mr. Kraft.″

Doerfer also noted that Sarkis had not paid Kraft any rent.

``The short of it is that Sarkis miscalculated the business acumen of Kraft, who had the ability and resources to look around the country for a tenant that would make money for him, while preserving his primary interest in the site as a resource for the Patriots,″ Doerfer wrote.