One-On-One With Walter Case, Jr.

Published: November 20, 2008 11:21 am EST

In a Trot Magazine feature article, writer Bob Carson goes one-on-one with Walter Case, Jr., who is set to get his life and career back on track.

Walter Case: Back On Track?
Exclusive feature from Bob Carson

The defendant stood nervously, awaiting sentencing. Walter Case, Jr. had pleaded guilty to felonious assault for punching his wife and then stabbing her in the back with a steak knife. With a version of refrain that judges hear far too often, Case spoke to the bench. It was a terse, bewildered statement.

“I really screwed my life up,” he said. “I let alcohol take over. I wish I could take it back.”

The judge dispensed his ruling; Case was given a five-year sentence -- a sentence that now, with six months lopped off for good behaviour, has been served. The legal procedure was routine for Judge John Enlow. With Walter Case now released, the procedure will anything but routine for harness racing.

It’s not just racing. Society as a whole doesn’t seem to have a blueprint when it comes to addressing our fallen stars. Some are pitched out and marginalized while others get reprieves and countless second chances. Each situation is different, and each sport struggles to weigh legal rights, integrity, appearances, economics, compassion, retributions and a host of competing factors when dealing with performers that have stepped out of bounds.

Cheating and unethical conduct related to the outcome of the games seems to be more egregious to the sporting world than personal misconduct. Athletes like Pete Rose, Eight Players on the 1918 Chicago White Sox, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson and Floyd Landis all were branded with a scarlet letter and permanently dismissed because they did not play fair.

But athletes that are addicts and alcoholics are usually given more latitude, it seems, and after suspensions and treatments they return. Often, they return again and again. Consider Steve Howe -- a sporting figure almost identical in age and with a similar career trajectory as Walter Case.

Steve Howe was a phenomenally talented young pitcher; seven times he was ruled off the field for drug and alcohol violations -- seven times he was given reprieves. During the 1992 season, he became the first baseball player to be banned for life because of drugs. An arbitrator reinstated him after the season. He kept pitching and getting chances until his gifts disappeared. In 2006, while Walter Case counted the days off his prison calendar, Steve Howe died when his car skidded off a mountain road at 5:00 a.m. The quotes from his teammates were predictable.

"It makes you numb when you hear about a situation like this,” one said. “He had a roller-coaster ride.”

“You always get second chances -- third and fourth sometimes,” commented another. “And people really believed in him and that he'd eventually kick the problem. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for Steve.”

But Case is not Steve Howe. And Case craves desperately to get back into a sulky. Whether this will happen, or should happen, is sure to be hotly debated. Complicating the issue is the factional nature of harness racing – different racetracks in different states and even different countries with different laws rules and jurisdictions may all weigh in with different decisions.

Belmont Prison in rural Ohio has 2,500 stories peering from behind barbed wire. Each is a tragedy. There is always an echo in a prison – a silent ‘why?’ For those that fell from high places, the echo is a little louder. Are arrogance, grandiosity, or entitlement factors that force stars to lapse into immoral and illegal territory? Or are these blessed athletes simply subject to the distressing but commonplace diseases of alcoholism and addiction? Is taking them back a disservice or a favor?

These are difficult decisions.

And my discussion with Walter Case, which took place just a few weeks after his release, may be of some value before you make yours.

Did you ever believe your career was done?

To be honest, I thought my career was done as far as driving a horse. I told my family that, and they said no, but I thought people had pretty much had it with me and would never give me another chance. There are people out that do not want to see me out there – I know that. I didn’t think any state would give me another chance.

What about Canada?

I would be open to Canada, sure, I have only driven up there a few times in stakes races and stuff, usually in and out, but it was great.

Is there difference between on-track problems and off-track problems?

I have been suspended before for drugs, gotten lots of chances but people have always told me that if the offence was fixing a race, people are not so kind. My career would have been done. Careers end there. It seems like this society is more forgiving for things that happen off the track, and this was bad.

Do you feel the backstretch environment is a problem, that maybe you should stay away?

No, the problems I have follow you. I could be a construction worker and it would have been the same thing. The environment has nothing to do with alcoholism. Until I recognized I had some serious problems and got on top of it, and I have, it wouldn’t have mattered where I worked.

Are there any terms attached to your release?

Probation doesn’t require me to go to meetings – but I want to go to meetings. I need all the help I can get. I need to talk to people about the addiction because that’s where it starts for me. If I pick up a drink I’m right back where I was before.

If things go well could you ever see sharing your story with other substance abusers?

Absolutely, that would be a big part of my recovery, sharing with other people with problems what I went through. To demonstrate to people where the addiction can lead you. I lost everything, including my freedom; I would love to talk to young kids with problems and show where it can lead if you don’t get help.

Have you followed the sport over the past five years?

I got Horseman & Fair World, Hoof Beats and Trot Magazine every month. That was my only way.

So you know about Tim Tetrick breaking your records.

How could you not? He is very deserving; he worked hard and did not shy away from anyone. You gotta give the kid credit. At twenty-six and with that disease in his hips he’s really had to battle, plus I hear he is a hell of a nice guy so he is a great role model for the sport. I’m happy for him, he deserves the record more than me.

If things don’t work out driving could you be content remaining around horses in other capacities -- like training?

Maybe someday, but right now I still have that burning desire to compete. I have been watching races on the computer and I still feel it inside me, that sensation to get out there.

Were there any positive things that you took out of those five years in prison? People? Programs?

As for friends in prison, I stayed very much to myself. The most positive thing was the drinking part. To tell you the truth I did not know how I was going to quit. I had looked for help before, but when you are confined for all that time, you’re not going to be able to drink, and that urge has gone away. I have never gone this long in my life without a drink. I got out feeling healthy.

What are your plans?

This has all happened so fast. It’s a dream come true. I never realized I could be back up so quickly. I’ll take it a day at a time.

The decision for harness racing is hard.

Horrible mistakes. Terrible decisions. Ugly wreckage. Wasted talent. Is addiction a disease like cancer where people cheer remission and recovery? Or is it a choice that precludes sympathy and demands accountability? Heavy questions. Your answers to these questions may depend on your personal life experiences.

A recent poster boy for recovery and redemption is Josh Hamilton who has, after many relapses, rebounded from destitution and pathetic drug dependency to all-star status in baseball. Hamilton was another golden boy given countless chances. He had been suspended by baseball indefinitely for violating the terms of his treatment program. His wife had left him. He had an infant daughter he'd barely laid eyes on. He'd rejected and disappointed friends who had reached out to help him.

In September 2005, he turned up on his grandmother's doorstep. He'd lost 50 pounds from his once-chiseled frame. He had nowhere else to turn. She took him in. He talked the talk and began to look better. His condition seemed to be improving. A couple of weeks later, she looked into his eyes, and he was high again. How many times could Josh Hamilton get it wrong? His grandmother confronted him yet again, and this time it took. In 2005 (after who knows how many second chances) Josh Hamilton found religion and got it right.

For years Hamilton was the talk of baseball for his problems -- bad ones. Today people talk about him for all the right reasons. It happens.

Josh Hamilton made it back. Steve Howe never did.

Walter Case – who knows? Only time will tell.



We all have made bad decisons in our life,and we should deserve a second chance.Most people learn from their mistakes and are better for that.I feel Walter Case deserves,
a second chance along with Canada and US drivers Kevin Wallis, Don Harmon,John Moody,
Art,and Wally,Mcllmurray,John Kakaley,Gene Poroski,Rick Ray. Many people came to the races because of these Drivers, I for one lost Interest after they were banned.USTA
give these drivers one more chance to make things right. And again we all have made
bad choices in our lives.

To Paula Ratchford, congratulations on your comment very well said, have a good day. Ron

Shame on you Bob, for keeping us informed about one of our horsemen.

Dave, aren't you making an extra hard critique of someone else's work? This question should have been asked, that topic should have been addressed...?

Sounds like you should do your own interview, with your own angle, oh wait ...

Bob wrote an article that served its purpose, a perspective on Case's return to "harness racing", his time in prison, his substance abuse, his future etc.

It's just a story about a guy trying to get his life and career back on track, who happens to be involved with standardbred racing, JUST LIKE THE INTRO SAYS IT IS ...

All the best Walter

P.S. Fantastic article Bob

It was a great article for the topic- harness racing. What happens in our private lives should probably stay private. None of us were there when everything happened, and it is always easier to give an opinion or advice looking from the outside in. A lot was printed on the matter, but we all know that nothing is ever black and white. At least Case knows what he loves and that is horse racing, most are not even sure about that. It might not seem like it now, but if he can turn things around for himself, he can be a great advocate for the sport.

So, we should only care about Walter Case in this story because he's involved in harness racing and this is a harness racing forum?

We shouldn't ask about the innocent victim if they're not a prominent name in the sport because this is a harness racing forum?

Come on, it's completely germane to ask about her when her assailant is a "harness racing" man and this is a harness racing forum.

To think otherwise furthers my point. We're evaluating the worth of Walter Case at a higher value than that of Nadine because he can drive a horse well. We're not interested about her because she didn't win 1,000+ races in a season once.

We ask a lot of questions about whether a "harness racing" man has changed and yet we don't ask the number one question, the crucial question? What about the crime itself? What about the innocent person involved?

Why shouldn't he address that? Oh, right, because he's a harness racing man, she isn't prominent in the sport and this is a harness racing forum. Gotcha.

The severity of the crime is what separates this from a mere mistake we all make.

There is no excuse for abuse of any kind, let alone stabbing someone with a knife.

Not saying we shouldn't talk about the alcohol and the demons and whether or not Walter is sober. Of course we should.

And, of course he would rather drive horses than sit in prison.

But. if we're going to forgive Walter — and trust that he won't do something like this again which affects someone other than himself— at the very least I think it's important to know he has actually changed.

Consider the possibilities concerning a question about the victim:

If he thinks she deserved what she got, that would suggest his character is still very flawed.

If he blames the alcohol, that's not taking personal responsibility for his actions. Also telling.

If he's honestly remorseful, it goes a long way to suggesting he's turned a corner and deserves a second chance.

But we don't know, do we, because the question wasn't asked (or at least not published).

In reply to by Dave Briggs (not verified)

Dave, how can you be annoyed "beyond belief" about the focus of this interview ? ... This is a "harness racing" personality, these are "harness racing" people openly discussing one of its own. We will all acknowledge that what Case did is deplorable, but we are talking about this issue because he is involved in "harness racing".
Find another "forum" if you only want to talk about "victim related issues" etc.
Case's wife Nadine was the victim, no one is trying to diminish that. She has everyone's sympathys.
But we are talking about the actions of Walter Case jr, the "harness driver" and what the future holds for him, in "harness racing".
I don't have any sympathy for Walter, but all of "harness racing" should have hope.
And only Walter will ever know if he is remorseful, but he may be able to prove to the rest of us that he is, by his future actions.

Walter......I too am a recovering addict.......I once had 14 years clean and sober and threw it all away......I too have dissappointed family....friends......employers........I just celebrated my 2 yr anniversary on 11/13......Soon I will buy into a couple yearlings ( with Per Henriksen ).....I hope our paths cross.......somewhere in our lifetimes......Lets make it a victorious ....clean and sober.......meeting

Gary A......Erie Pa

I have only read this blog and have read very little of this travesty previous to today. It seems that Walter has made many mistakes in his life on and off the track. We all make mistakes in life, some worse than others. Has anyone ever taken the time to perhaps ask Walter's wife if she has forgiven him? Maybe she has. There are so many people with the disease of addiction and many people don't recognize it or even get help until something very hienous happens. This is an unfortunate side to addiction and as an addict I know that we have to reach a "bottom" before we truly search our hearts and our souls for a solution. Walter would not have acted out like he did, which was a terrible thing, had he not been under the influence, this is not an excuse for his behavoir, but it is a reality. These type of things happen when a person is an addict and remains in relapse not recovery. He has gone through the proper channels, he did his time and has chosen recovery as a way of life for himself. We shouldn't judge Walter for what he has done . He has already paid his debt to society and maybe, who knows, he has confessed his remorse to his ex-wife. We are very quick to judge people in this day where people are unaware of all the circumstances surrounding a particular incident like previously mentioned.I don't think anyone is feeling "sorry" for Walter, but there are some Christians out there who believe that if you are remorseful for your "wrong-doings" and have chosen a new way of life that God, or whoever our Higher Power may be, will forgive us and allow us to move on with peace and contentment showing the way. As a society , we are way too eager to judge others, especially when they are successful, Walter deserves another chance and my prayers are with him.

I know Walter personally and he has the will to win at everything. We have all made mistakes in our lifes choices and hopefully we have learned from them, it sounds like Walter has learned from this experience and for me I would enjoy seeing him race again. He can certainly drive my horses anytime. Good luck Walter make me proud.


your point is well recieved and I completely understand where you are coming from for the fact you lay it out very clearly. But if racing horses is his chosen profession and he has paid his debt to society, then the talent he has being a driver is material in this case (no pun intended). What is the difference if he bags groceries, cleans floors, or serves coffee. If he wants to try and be a productive member of society why should anyone try and stop him. The one key to this is giving someone hope. Don't get me wrong this is not a "feel good" story by any stretch. No matter how much you read into how he expresses himslef in the article, he will never be able to change what he did, but he served his time and a judge thinks he has too. What problem in the horse racing business is Walter Case jr going to make worse by being permitted to earn a living? Are people going to wager less? Will there more rapid increase in banned substances again? Will people cheat? Walter Case jr does not epitimize everything that is wrong with racing. He is just some guy who did something really really bad, who was punished by society and now wants to move on with his life by doing something that he enjoys and is really really good at. As a person who owns horses and occasionally bets and has been part of the industry for along time , I have no problem with a person who is trying to move on with his life.

In reply to by Dave Briggs (not verified)

I do not know how old you are sir, but I am almost positive that in your lifetime, there will be a time when you will be under the influence of something and you will say or do something, that the next day you will regret, because that is what abuse of alchool or drugs does to a person's mind, it take's control of you, you are not the same person. People that are using a subtance, it's because down deep inside there is something bothering them and instead of getting professionel help, they take the easy way out, they think they can control themselve's under the influence, it's a mistake, you have no more control. Walter has paid for his mistakes, down deep inside I am sure he regrets his actions, how can he not, it's cost him his family, 5 years in prison, ect.We are pretty good at judging other people, but maybe we should take a look in the miror. GOOD LUCK WALTER.

In reply to by Dave Briggs (not verified)

There are 2 sides to a story, did anyone ever ask him what his wife said or did to to make him go off the deep end, I know that abuse has a lot to do with a person losing it, but you can be provoked long enough and time after time, even when your sober to make you do something, that later, after the heat has cooled down, you know you did wrong.I know, because it happened to me and I was not under the influence of anything. I am not a violent man, but after a week of provocation, I lost it and pushed my wife out the door, she tripped and fell on the rug,(I had given her one week to get out),I was charged with domestic violence.She would not give me the key to the apartement,saying she did not have it, after the police came she gave them the key.She did not beleive that I had sub-letted the apartement and that we both had to get out.

For the record, my group of anonymous friends, I pointed out the question about trying to kill his ex-wife was not included in the story. I have no idea whether it was posed, but if it wasn't, it should have been and, again, that is the important part here. What about the victim?

Look, I don't have the intimate details in front of me, so I don't know what the court particulars were in the case as to whether he was charged with attempted murder or assault to begin with and whether that was plea-bargained down, etc. But we're splitting hairs here, aren't we? The facts are that he punched his ex-wife and then stabbed her in the back with a knife. That's about as heinous a crime as it gets.

This isn't about a man's self-abuse with alcohol, an innocent person was involved.

Yes, Walter served his time. Yes, it appears he is clean. Yes, he should never touch alcohol, but aren't we laying a little too much blame on the substance abuse and leaving the criminal largely not responsible for his own actions?

We live in a society where it's common to blame others, or external factors, for our failings -- substance abuse, parents that didn't hug us enough, the state of the economy, the fact the Leafs haven't won the Cup in 41 years....

All I'm saying is we're focusing way too much on poor old Walter here and laying too much of the blame on the booze, not the man.

Frankly, harness racing has enough problems without him, but, again, I'll leave that up to others to decide if he should drive again. I don't begrudge him making a living and making an honest contribution to society, though I'm sure he could find another line of work if he couldn't drive horses.

All I ask is that we remember there was a victim here and I'd be curious to know if he was honestly remorseful... not about what stabbing his ex-wife did to his life, not about what alcohol abuse did to him, not about his fall from grace (and given his record of racing violations, I'm not sure "grace" is the right word). I want to know if he is truly, deeply, remorseful about what he did to another person.

The fact he is a talented driver is immaterial.

I noticed in the previous articles the writers continuously mentioned that he tried to kill her. If he intentionally tried to kill her he would have been charged with attempted murder not assault and would be in prison for many years to come. His alcoholism and substance abuse problem would be certainly a contributing factor to his crime. I am sure his head is much clearer today than it was 5 years ago, and I am also sure if he was asked "are you remorsefull for your actions" the answer would be undoubtly yes, but he wasn't asked!

with a lifetime average at .390 and his last 5 years being over .400. As a person who loves to bet the horses you never leave WC off the ticket. Prove to everyone that you paid your debt to society and if you can move on so should they....god bless

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

would he have tried to kill someone if it wasnt for his problems with substance abuse? Im in no way defending his actions dont get me wrong, but if he was sober there is a good chance this wouldnt have happened. He spent the past 5 years in jail because he was an alcoholic...this led to him trying to kill someone. I wish him luck and i hope that he has truly kicked this awful of the most talented men to ever sit in a race bike, interesting to see if he still has it. good luck Walter

In reply to by Dave Briggs (not verified)


I couldnt have said what you said any better, you wrote my thoughts exactly. how can people forget that he tried to kill someone, with or without drugs or alcohol he crossed a line. Its sad that this entire article is about his addictions and compairing him to other addicts, he spent almost 5 years in jail because he tried to kill someone, not because he was an alcoholic. I truly wish him all the luck in the world with battling his demons, and I hope he stays clean, but I feel so bad for the true victim in all this(his ex),shes the one that we should be worried about, shes the one that is forced to have to deal with his release....

I'll leave the issue about whether Walter should be allowed to drive again to others for now.

But I'm annoyed beyond belief about the focus of the interview and the fact we're spending so much time worrying about the criminal, not the victim... and for no other reason than the fact Walter was/is an exceptionally-talented driver.

Most of focus in the interview part of this piece is about Walter's personal demons, the substance abuse, but there's little or no questions published on the issue of Walter's attempt to kill someone.

In fact, it smacks of a lack of personal responsibility when he seems to blame his substance abuse problems for his troubles, rather than his own actions.

I am able to forgive and forget about most things, but substance abuse or not, there is absolutely no excuse for trying to kill someone.

I understand and appreciate that he served his time.

I'm happy he sounds as if he's changed in terms of staying sober.

But what I want to know is Walter repentant for his heinous crime? It seems from what I've read that his only regrets are about what his own actions did to mess up his life?

What about Nadine?

I have the utmost sympathy for those battling personal demons, but when those demons lead one to attempt to take another person's life, my sympathy dries up in a big hurry.

I hope Walter has changed. for his sake and ours, but I think the least important part of this is whether he ever drives again.

Above all, let's stop feeling sorry for Walter. He brought this on himself.