Moldy tomatoes, prison pillows

02/25/2013 09:20:00 AM
Mike Hornick

Mike Hornick, Staff WriterMike Hornick, Staff WriterAs a federal prison somewhere fluffs a pillow for Scott Salyer’s arrival, all that’s left to ponder — beyond the time he’ll pass there — are the mysteries of character that brought the tomato baron down.

If there’s any mystery at all.

Salyer’s legal team called it a “fall from grace” of “Greek tragic proportion.”

But if this is a tragedy, which character is he? And what was the plot?

Greek drama was about transgression. Not just any transgression — it had to be something that could yield pity or sympathy, if not justification.

Some characters were pathetic, others noble. On the high road, Antigone chose between obligations to family and country — and accepted the consequences.

But to have conflicting loyalties, you need at least two. Salyer was single-minded in his pursuits as owner of SK Foods. I think he’s Creon, not Antigone.

Creon followed customs selectively. He denied burial rites for a vanquished rival, keeping the body in an open field.

Risky business

Salyer had customs all his own.

One was mislabeling high-mold tomato products.

In a taped conversation, he and a colleague chuckle as they plan to take five loads rejected by Amy’s Kitchen and send them straight back with new labels. In the same discussion, Salyer reminisces about mislabeling cotton earlier in his career.

The good old days.

Creon’s wife cursed him. Salyer’s ex-wife had a claim on a house that helped keep him in jail for months before trial.

Maybe the right comparison is to thugs, not Greek kings.

It’s scary that Salyer was able to find accomplices inside companies like Kraft and Frito-Lay.

His six-year stretch for racketeering and price fixing starts in April.

He’s asked for a minimum security site in Lompoc, Calif. But the Federal Bureau of Prisons has yet to say where it will put Salyer.

Don’t expect to find a mint on that pillow.

mhornick@thepacker.com

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