Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jack DeCoster, Maine's most infamous businessman, gets jail sentence

Austin "Jack" DeCoster, Maine's most infamous businessman, is going to jail for his egg company's role in a 2010 salmonella outbreak that may have sickened as many as 54,000. For many of those who've followed his sordid career, the biggest question is why it took so long.

As I detailed in Tuesday's Portland Press Herald and, in 2011, in Down East and the Portland Phoenix, DeCoster has repeatedly violated all manner of laws and regulations: labor, environmental, workplace safety, public health, immigration, contract, and animal safety. Here's the nut from the Press Herald piece:

"Over the past half-century, Jack DeCoster’s companies have paid millions in fines and damages for everything from faking trucking logs and knowingly hiring illegal immigrants to environmental contamination, animal cruelty, workplace safety problems, and the exploitation of workers, including the alleged rapes of female employees by supervisors and the terrorizing of workers housed in squalid, crowded, cockroach-infested company trailers at his Maine farms."

He's always had enablers, though. As recently as 2011, his local state legislators -- Dale Crafts and Jeff Timberlake -- were trying to pass a law to weaken labor protections on his Maine farms; it almost passed because a number of people gave false legislative testimony in regards to his recent record in the state. (I learned while reporting at the time that there's no penalty for lying to Maine lawmakers, even for attorneys and lawmakers, because nobody does so under oath.)

I'd link to the articles I wrote at the time, but the new owners of Down East and the Phoenix no longer make their archives available online. (And, while on the topic: what happened to the Phoenix archive? Is it damaged? Do the owners care?)

Jack and his son, Peter (who also got three months), have the right to appeal the sentence, but have already plead guilty to charges. Their company is paying almost $7 million in fines for their role in the outbreak.

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