Two Colorado brothers whose contaminated cantaloupe farm was tied to 33 deaths in one of the nation’s worst food-borne sickness outbreaks won’t have to serve prison time, a judge ruled yesterday.
A federal court judge in Denver on Tuesday sentenced Eric and Ryan Jensen to five years’ probation, six months’ house arrest and ordered them to pay $150,000 each in restitution, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The farmers had been facing as much as six years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
The U.S. is believed to have the safest food supply in the world, yet last year 48 million people were sickened by tainted food.
The light sentence was disappointing to folks like Paul Schwarz, 64, of Missouri, whose father died from the listeria outbreak in 2011.
“I’ll accept it but I’m not happy,” Schwarz, who attended the sentencing, later told NBC News. “I think other people should have been sitting there as well.”
The Jensens pleaded guilty in October to six misdemeanor counts of introducing “adulterated food” into interstate commerce. Although they cut a deal with federal prosecutors, it didn't include a recommendation for a lower sentence, The Denver Post reported.