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