The thousands sickened in the 2010 Salmonella outbreak traced to two Iowa egg production facilities received a mixture of good and bad news from the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Victim Notification System last week. In a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett granted the government’s motion for a consolidated sentencing hearing for 71-year-old Austin (Jack) DeCoster, his 51-year old son Peter DeCoster and their family trust, known as Quality Egg LLC. That was the good news for victims of the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak, linked to Quality Egg products, that caused thousands of illnesses between March and November of 2010. The bad news is that the sentencing hearing, including the individual sentencing, won’t happen until next year. Bennett has scheduled it to begin at 9 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2015 in his courtroom in Sioux City, IA. The judge said that at the conclusion of the consolidated sentencing hearing he would work with the defense attorneys to schedule the individual sentencing. The judge expects that whole process will take five days. The father, son and the business entity that was the nation’s largest egg production enterprise all pleaded guilty last June, but getting to sentencing has proven complicated. Each man pleaded guilty to one federal misdemeanor count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and each agreed to pay a $100,000 fine. Their LLC pleaded guilty to one federal felony count of bribing a USDA egg inspector and to two misdemeanors. The LLC’s penalty, under plea agreements, is a $6.8 million fine. But while accepting terms of the plea agreement last June, defense attorneys immediately made the argument the DeCosters cannot be jailed, confined or even subjected to home detention because to impose any loss of freedom would violate various provisions of the U.S. Constitution. K Street’s Sidley Austin LLP law firm in Washington D.C., representing “Jack” DeCoster, and Dorman, Lustgarten & Troia in Omaha, representing Peter DeCoster, have jointly held the position that it is “unconstitutional to deprive a defendant of his liberty solely because he was the ‘responsible corporate officer’ of a company that breached strict liability duty.” They made that argument in writing last month, but not before other issues popped up regarding the Pre-sentence Investigative Reports (PSIRs) that were provided to the count under seal by federal probationary officers. The PSIRs are routinely prepared and presented to the Court before sentencing. Once the defendants appealed portions of the PSIRs, which still have not been made public, government attorneys moved to consolidate the sentencing hearing for the purpose of hearing relevant testimony. Peter E. Deegan, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the DeCosters, argued that a consolidated evidentiary hearing would not be prejudice to any defendant or other interested party. Deegan said if there is evidence that is irrelevant to one party or the other, the judge can make those determinations at the hearing. DOJ’s unit for keeping victims informed of the progress in criminal cases has its work cut out for it in the DeCoster case. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010 identified nearly 2,000 S. Enteritidis infections traced to the Wright County and Hillandale egg farms in Iowa, owned by the DeCosters. The large-scale egg production facilities recalled more than one half billion eggs, the largest shell egg recall in U.S. history. Salmonella Enteritidis is one of the most common types of Salmonella infection in the U.S. While the May 1 to Nov. 30, 2010 shell egg outbreak was directly tied to 1,939 illnesses. However, statistic models used to account for all Salmonella illnesses in the U.S. put the estimate for the total amount of illnesses at more than 62,000.