Portland Press Herald interviews attorney Benjamin Gideon about DeCoster jail sentence

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Benjamin Gideon, an attorney with the Berman & Simmons law firm, was interviewed by the Portland Press Herald this week for a story about “notorious egg seller,” Austin ‘Jack’ DeCoster.

DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster were sentenced on April 13 to three months in jail, and fines of $100,000 each, for their role in a salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of people in 2010. They had previously pleaded guilty in federal court to selling contaminated eggs from their fams in Iowa. Their company, Quality Egg, has been fined $6.79 million for multiple charges, including bribery of a federal health inspector.

The DeCosters previously owned egg farms in Maine that were repeatedly scrutinized for health and worker safety concerns.

Gideon represented Homero Ramirez, a longtime plant manager at one of DeCoster’s facilities, in a discrimination suit against DeCoster that was settled in 2013. In the complaint, Ramirez said he had worked for 22 years in “an environment and culture that treats Mexican-American workers as ‘stupid’ and virtual slaves whose only value is their willingness to perform dangerous or demeaning tasks for DeCoster.”

Gideon told Press Herald reporter Colin Woodard he was surprised to learn that the DeCosters were sentenced to jail time for their role in the 2010 salmonella outbreak.

“Trouble has been following Jack around for many years, and there have been lots of settlements and lots of fines” but no jail time, Gideon said. “You rarely hear about white-collar criminals doing time for anything.

“(Jack DeCoster) has never really been held fully accountable to anything to the level of jail time. That’s pretty significant.”