Except for finishing up the arraignment of the defendants, who are being freed on bail, the criminal case involving the former owners and employees of the Rancho Feeding Corporation won’t really get underway until Sept. 24. Federal Judge Charles R. Breyer continued the “initial appearances” in the case until that date, and, under agreement with both the prosecution and the involved defense attorneys, the U.S. District Court for Northern California won’t start the speedy-trial clock until then.
Breyer, who was appointed in 1997 to the federal bench in San Francisco by then-President Bill Clinton, has also signed an order connecting the government’s Aug. 14 indictment against Rancho owner Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr. and two employees with the plea bargain it has with the other former Rancho owner, Robert W. Singleton.
The delay to Sept. 24 for the first status hearing in the case came about due to scheduling conflicts among the various lawyers and the court’s schedule.
The Aug. 14 indictment, unsealed four days later, stems from an eight-month-long federal investigation of the Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse that was previously owned and operated by Rancho. Various units of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were involved in the federal probe, including the Inspector General (IG); the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); Investigations, Enforcement and Audit, and Compliance and Investigations.
In addition to Amaral, 76, two former slaughterhouse employees were also charged in the indictment. They are Eugene Corda, 65, and Felix Cabrera, 55. Amaral and Corda are both residents of Petaluma, and Cabrera lives in nearby Santa Rosa.
Separately, and the lightest charged, is Singleton, 77, who is accused of just one count of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. He is cooperating with prosecutors against his former partner and their ex-employees. Singleton will make his initial appearance before a magistrate judge this morning in San Francisco.
Amaral and Corda were immediately freed on secured bonds of $ 50,000 each. Cabrera’s release pending trial was also expected no later than today. The docket for his case indicates that a Spanish interpreter assisted the defendant during the legal proceedings.
Amaral and the two former Rancho employees face a package of federal felony charges, including multiple counts of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat, along with mail fraud and conspiracy.
The indictment alleges that Amaral and Singleton directed Cabrera and Corda to circumvent USDA inspection for cattle showing signs of disease, including eye cancers.
Earlier, the USDA investigation brought about the recall of almost 9 million pounds of beef produced at the facility during the previously year.
Food Safety News