Jensens seek probation as PrimusLabs denies liability - The Packer

Jensens seek probation as PrimusLabs denies liability

01/16/2014 05:56:00 PM
Coral Beach

Cantaloupe growers Eric and Ryan Jensen are seeking probation after pleading guilty to criminal charges in relation to the 2011 listeria outbreak traced to their fruit, detailing how they relied on a food safety auditor’s “superior” rating and didn’t know their operation was flawed.

Facing possible sentences of six years each, the Jensen brothers said in court documents that prison time would be “a harbinger of the end of small American family farmers. This irretrievable piece of Americana has already been damaged; it need not be destroyed.”

The brothers’ cantaloupe caused 33 deaths and 147 illnesses across 28 states according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Jensens each pleaded guilty to six federal misdemeanors of introducing contaminated food into the supply chain. Sentencing is set for Jan. 28 in Denver.

The probation requests reference a pre-sentence investigation report, which is not a public document, saying the probation officer who did the report did not find any evidence the brothers were aware their equipment or procedures were 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. “It is readily apparent that the probation officer who authorized the report invested much time, effort and thought into this project. His recommendation for probation is reasonable.”

Many of the points in the probation requests are included in the Jensens’ federal lawsuit against PrimusLabs, whose parent company is Primus Group Inc., Santa Maria, Calif.

The brothers signed the case over to the 66 listeria victims and victims’ families who have filed civil cases in relation to the Jensens cantaloupe so any damages awarded will be paid to those victims.

PrimusLabs is named in all of the suits. Two federal judges and one state judge have dismissed Primus from cases in their jurisdictions. Bill Marler, the Seattle food safety attorney handling 45 of the victim cases as well as the Jensens’ case against Primus, said case law is mixed on the question of “duty to consumers,” but he believes many of the cases will go forward.

Primus continues to blame Jensens

PrimusLabs subcontracted the Jensens’ 2011 audit to Texas-based Bio Food Safety Inc. The Jensens contend the California company was negligent and breached its contract because the auditor failed to point out substandard conditions and equipment that federal officials later cited as the cause of the listeria contamination.

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USA  |  January, 17, 2014 at 01:32 PM

The Jensen's statement that prison time would be “a harbinger of the end of small American family farmers is erroneous. When you deliver through a broker (Fronterra) and ship to companies like Wal-Mart, you can't be a small farmer anymore! Regardless of the size, not every small farmer kills 33 people because of his filthy and reckless way to run a business. Everybody in the industry and also finally the consumer knows, the whole certification theater is not worth the paper it's printed on. Maybe at the few hours the certifier was on the premise it wasn't too bad. But what is with the other 364 days!? To get 6 years prison time is very human when you kill 33 people and insure hundredths. When a shooter kills one person he gets lifetime and Mr. President wants to outlaw all weapons in USA or his dream is in the whole world. In China they hang does irresponsible business people. So 6 years prison time is nothing for what you did!

Woodland  |  January, 20, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Comparing these guys to a shooter who is intentionally killing people is beyond flawed logic.

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