U.S. attorney recommends probation for Jensens

01/17/2014 04:51:00 PM
Coral Beach

The U.S. attorney prosecuting the criminal case against Eric and Ryan Jensen recommends probation instead of prison terms for the 2011 listeria outbreak linked to their cantaloupe.

The Jan. 17 recommendation for five years probation for each brother came three days after they filed requests for probation, saying they had no knowledge that their fruit might be contaminated because a food safety auditor had given their operation a superior rating.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 28 in U.S. District Court in Denver. The maximum possible sentence for each of the Jensens is six years, one year for each of the six criminal counts of introducing an adulterated food into the supply chain. They both pleaded guilty after negotiating plea agreements with assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Peña in 2013.

An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 33 people died and 147 across 28 states were sickened because of listeria monocytogenes infections they contracted from the Jensen Farms cantaloupe.

There are 66 civil lawsuits pending across the country, filed by victims and their family members against the Jensens, distributor Frontera Produce, food safety auditing company Primus Group Inc., doing business as PrimusLabs, and retailers that sold the cantaloupe.

The Jensens have filed a civil case against Primus in federal court in Denver, contending that they would not have shipped their fruit and consumers would not have contracted listeria monocytogenes if the auditor had indicated their operation was not up to standards.

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