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Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

Jury acquits Tyson in conspiracy case

Firm cleared of accusations that it illegally hired immigrants to boost profits

March 27, 2003

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— A federal jury acquitted Tyson Foods and three other defendants on all charges in an immigrant conspiracy case Wednesday.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for less than a day before returning its verdict.

Tyson and the other three defendants were accused of hiring illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America as part of a nationwide conspiracy to boost production and profits.

"The verdict confirms that Tyson Foods made a concerted effort to hire properly and abide by the law," company spokesman Gary Michelson said in a statement handed out immediately after the verdict was announced.

"While we're pleased with today's verdict, it's unfortunate that Tyson Foods and our team members were needlessly subjected to this ordeal," Michelson said.

Tyson executives testified during the 7-week trial that Tyson doesn't encourage the hiring of illegal workers and said managers who did so acted against corporate policies. However, two former managers who were indicted but entered plea deals testified that they were doing what the firm demanded when they went along with the hiring of illegal workers.

In closing statements Tuesday, a company attorney said the defendants were victims of an imperfect government system of screening immigrants and there was no conspiracy at the Springdale, Ark.-based meat giant.

Earlier, Assistant U.S. Atty. John MacCoon said Tyson's top executives knew illegal workers were being hired at poultry plants.

"Headquarters had a million red flags that things were not right," MacCoon said.

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