The federal judge who sentenced Austin “Jack” and Peter DeCoster to each serve three months in federal confinement predicted that the two defendants would appeal, and they’ve now proven him correct. The prospect of serving three months at a federal prison camp located on a former college campus in Yankton, SD, or at a county jail closer to Peter DeCoster’s home in Clarion, IA, was enough to cause the father and son to appeal their sentences for both “application and constitutionality.” Notices of appeal of the sentencing, originally imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett, were filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis. Bennett allowed both men to remain free while they pursued their appeals. Criminal appeals in federal court take time to adjudicate, typically a year or two.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster, left, and Peter DeCoster
On April 13, Jack DeCoster, 81, and his son Peter, 51, were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Sioux City for the roles they and their Quality Egg LLC business played in allowing contaminated eggs to reach consumers in 2010. The outbreak caused thousands of people to become sickened from salmonellosis and resulted in the largest recall of raw shell eggs in U.S. history from two egg farms in Iowa either owned or controlled by Quality Egg. After the government brought the initial indictment, the DeCosters each pleaded guilty to one count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, admitting their company’s shell eggs were adulterated in that they contained a poisonous and deleterious substance injurious to public health, namely the Salmonella serotype known as Salmonella Enteriditis. Since entering those pleas, however, defense attorneys have maintained that their clients cannot be subjected to any loss of liberty for accepting responsibility as corporate officers without prior knowledge of the offense for such a “strict liability” federal misdemeanor. Bennett said if Congress or the federal Sentencing Guidelines Commission did not want corporate officials jailed for the offense, they would have said so. Bennett went ahead and sentenced each man to three months of imprisonment and one year of supervised probation, plus a $100,000 fine. Along with Quality Egg, the DeCosters also share in the requirement to provide an additional $83,008 for restitution. Quality Egg was also a defendant in the case and pleaded guilty to two felonies — one for giving a cash bribe to a USDA egg inspector and a second for having the intent to defraud by introducing misbranded eggs into interstate commerce. The company also pleaded guilty to the same federal misdemeanor as the DeCosters. Under the plea agreement, Quality Egg and the DeCosters together paid about $7 million before their April 13 sentencing. Only the restitution amount remained to be paid at the time they were sentenced.