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DeCosters Plead Guilty; Defense Claims Jail Time Would be Unconstitutional

The sentencing of 79-year-old Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his 51-year-old son, Peter DeCoster, still remains to be done, and it is going to be a little more complicated than originally thought. That is the major takeaway from a federal courtroom in Sioux City, IA, where everything else went down Tuesday entirely as expected.

The two egg producers pleaded guilty June 3 to one federal misdemeanor count each, and, under plea agreements reached with the government in April, they’ll each pay personal fines of $100,000. Guilty pleas for introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce also expose them to possible one-year jail terms.

However, their defense attorneys claim that any jail time for the DeCosters, including home detention, would be unconstitutional. The defense attorneys are being permitted to file a motion making their constitutional arguments prior to sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.

The plea agreements with the government already put the DeCosters in a favorable position under the complicated federal sentencing guidelines that federal judges use during the penalty phase of criminal proceedings.

Both men were released on bail Tuesday until sentencing. The U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa imposed standard “conditions of release” on the pair. These include submitting to collection of a DNA sample, checking in with the U.S. Probation Office, and reporting any contact with law enforcement — even a traffic stop.

Jack DeCoster continues to reside in Maine, the state from which he built an egg empire that spanned much of the U.S. Peter DeCoster is a resident of northern Iowa, where the family’s egg businesses were found responsible for a 2010 Salmonella outbreak that sickened about 2,000 people, according to the official CDC case count.

Quality Egg LLC, owned by a family trust, separately entered a guilty plea under another agreement Tuesday that saw the company accept a $6.8-million fine for pleading guilty to two federal felonies and the same federal misdemeanor.

The individual plea agreements were contingent upon the company’s guilty pleas and its agreement to pay the huge fine. Quality Egg’s felony guilty pleas were for bribing a USDA egg inspector and introducing misbranded eggs into interstate commerce.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used the court appearances as an opportunity to announce that it played a role in the investigation of the DeCosters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation and the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General were also involved.

© Food Safety News
  • chickenadvocate

    The DeCosters are criminals in every sense, but they are not paying for their crimes, as they should by law and considering the absolute misery they have inflicted upon countless millions of birds and passed on to consumers of eggs and egg products. I guess Karma isn’t working in their case – or maybe their punishment is yet to come . . . hopefully for eternity. Choose egg-free, dairy-free, animal-free foods and wash your hands of the cruelty, contamination, cholesterol and support for criminals however legally protected these criminals may be. Vegetables and fruits contaminated with Salmonella and E coli bacteria are the result of animal agricultural runoff and fertilizer. Coliform bacteria do not grow on fruits and vegetables. Looking forward to a world in which a “DeCoster” is an extinct animal, Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns. Give a Cluck-Go Vegan

  • Rwingviper

    Hey Karen,

    So far in the last 12 months I’ve shot deer, pheasant, duck, geese, turkey, mountain lion with either a bow or gun. Yes, I’ve blasted the fowl right out of the sky and munched on their succulent meat shortly thereafter. Oh, and when I was in between my hunting/killing stops, I always made time for a Chick Fil A stop for some delectable chick in dining! Have a wonderful day. Joel Butler, PhD, President of Jack Pine Savage Hunting Universe. One shot, meat in the pot

  • Sean Weidemann

    That is wrong. Coming from somebody that has worked in the egg industry; This happens every single day. I worked for a competitor of Quality Egg LLC. ;( the DeCosters), I wanted to pull eggs that looked below the standards I was trained to search for, and I was told not to dispose of the eggs since it would bring down production and profits, Yet, the Quality Egg LLC is under investigation and the company I worked for was not. I believe that the DeCoster’s are being targeted much like Martha Stewart was targeted for doing what everyone else was doing but the government needed a poster child,(scapegoat). The Decosters are good people spending lots of time and money helping many people all over the world. I know this personally; but they do not try to publicize their acts of charity.

    • Ben Guiliani

      Acts of charity are well taken. But, we must handle business by being careful how we produce any products that are consumed and or used by the general public. How to we do that is to ascertain that we run clean operations especially when we produce food. Hopefully, the DeCoster will be good listeners when Consultants advise them about potential hazards in their operations. Jack’s story on how with a little over 100 laying hens he built an egg empire. His own father died in his lap when Jack was only 14. Jack is a true American Entrepreneur with True Grit. The DeCoster’s are good people….without question. My advise to these good folks is to, stop, look and listen then proceed in doing business with caution. GOD sents US messengers through others and we should acknowledge the advise/message……sound management in all operations…enough with only superficial management procedures. “There is an Oasis in the middle of the Desert!”