Prosecutor recommended probation
Hegarty’s sentence order came after the U.S. Attorney’s office and officials from the federal probation and parole office recommended probation.
“These defendants were at worse negligent or reckless in their acts and omissions,” Pena wrote in the government’s recommendation.
The judge noted that several victims spoke during the sentencing hearing, some in favor of probation, some in favor of jail time.
The brothers requested probation, saying they had no intent to harm anyone. They also contend justice has been served because new food safety guidelines have been implemented in the industry.
According to their request, the federal officer who wrote their presentence reports did not find any evidence showing the brothers were aware their operation was substandard.
“Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that the defendant and codefendant ‘cut corners’ to save money in order to earn a greater profit by installing the new processing equipment,” Eric Jensen’s attorney wrote in the request.
The brothers’ probation request also reference their federal lawsuit against Santas Maria, Calif.-based Primus Group Inc. That case states the Jensens would not have shipped the tainted cantaloupe if their operation had not received a “superior” score of 96 out of 100 when a Primus contractor audited it just before the 2011 season.
The brothers signed their case against Primus over to the 66 listeria victims and their families who have filed civil cases.
Primus Group Inc., Santa Maria, Calif., is named in all of the suits. At least two federal judges and one state judge dismissed Primus from cases under their jurisdiction as of late January.
However, Bill Marler, the Seattle food safety attorney handling the Jensens’ case against Primus — as well as 45 of the 66 victim cases — said he believes many of the cases will go forward. One such case, filed by the family of the late William Beach, is in Oklahoma.
The judge denied, in part, a dismissal request by Primus on Jan. 24. In his order the judge said the wrongful death claim against Primus can move forward because there are sufficient “factual allegations to support that causation exists between Primus Group’s actions and Mr. Beach’s listeria infection and death.”