Three of four poultry industry executives who are accused of conspiring to fix chicken prices and rig bids for broilers have entered pleas of not guilty. A fourth defendant asked for a continuance in order to hire new counsel.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Jayson Penn, CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride; Roger Austin, a former Pilgrim's executive; and Scott Brady, a vice president of Claxton Poultry, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and were released on their own recognizance. Claxton Poultry President Mikell Fries, who requested a continuance, also was released on his own recognizance.
All four defendants were required to sign documents stipulating the conditions of their release pending trial. The conditions include providing a DNA sample, and to refrain from using weapons except for sport hunting. In addition, the defendants cannot initiate contact with certain industry representatives and companies; those individuals and firms are listed on documents that are restricted from public access.
Pilgrim’s Pride, headquartered in Greeley, CO, claims to produce 20% of all chicken consumed in the U.S., and its parent company is JBS S.A.
Claxton Poultry, headquartered in Claxton, GA, says it produces 300 million pounds of poultry each year and is a supplier to Chick-fil-A.
If convicted, the executives face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.