Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, were each sentenced Monday in a Sioux City, IA, federal courtroom to three months in jail and one year of supervised probation.
The sentences, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett, came in response to guilty pleas from the DeCosters and their Quality Egg LLC in connection with a 2010 Salmonella outbreak linked to raw shell eggs produced at two facilities they owned in Iowa.
The company pleaded guilty to two felonies (bribing a public official and introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce), while the DeCosters each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of introducing adulterated products into interstate commerce. They had faced a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
The company was fined $6.8 million, and the individuals were fined $100,000 apiece. On Monday, the judge let those fines stand.
Estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are that nearly 2,000 people were sickened in the Salmonella outbreak linked to the company’s eggs, although thousands more may have been affected. A half-billion eggs were eventually recalled.
The father of a now 8-year-old victim of the Salmonella outbreak from Dallas, TX, provided a statement at today’s sentencing.
In the event the two DeCosters are taken into custody, they would likely serve time at a minimum federal facility or a county jail. However, the judge’s sentencing order would not commence until Jack DeCoster, 80, and his son, 51, have an opportunity to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which Bennett indicated Monday he expected them to do. Meanwhile, the two remain free.
In his sentencing decision, Bennett took into account $16 million in charitable contributions Jack DeCoster has made in recent years and Peter DeCoster’s extensive overseas work in support of Christian missionaries.
Federal government prosecutors had not recommended jail time for the DeCosters, as was recently revealed in sentencing briefs filed this past week.
Food Safety News Executive Editor Dan Flynn was in the courtroom today in Sioux City and will be reporting additional details about the case.