DOJ does not want poultry executive going on safari before price-fixing trial

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As expected, the Department of Justice attorneys don’t want Claxton Poultry President Mikell Fries to safari in Tanzania before he goes to trial on price-fixing.

Fries, one of four poultry executives charged with price-fixing and big-rigging, recently asked the Court to allow him to taking a hunting trip to Tanzania that he booked before being indicted for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Federal prosecutors were known to oppose the request, but have since filed their written arguments with the Court.

“Extradition from Tanzania is an extremely difficult, resource-intensive, and time-consuming undertaking,” DOJ attorneys say in their opposition motion.. “To the best of the government’s knowledge the last successful extradition from Tanzania to the United States for any crime occurred for a drug offense in 2017, and prior to that there was an extradition for a homicide/kidnapping offense in 1996.”

In making his request, Fries said his company, 2,000 employees, and an extended family in the United States make it a certainty that he will return after the international trip ends in late August.

Fries filed a motion to modify his bond conditions to allow the travel to Tanzania for the safari hunting trip. Before his indictment by a federal grand jury, Fries and three close friends booked a trip to Tanzania , now scheduled for Aug. 14 to 31. He paid $37,000 for the trip which is non-refundable and not covered by trip insurance, according to a court document.

“Mr. Fries does not have a history of non-compliance with court orders, has no criminal history, and has deep ties to the United States,” his attorney argued in the motion.  “Further, he does not have connections to any foreign country, including Tanzania. He also does not have assets outside of the United States.

“Tanzania and the United States do have an  International Extradition Treaty, but Fries agreed  to execute or stipulate to any form of Waiver of Extradition the government proposes. After the trip, he also promised to return his passport to his attorney

“Finally, should Mr. Fries be permitted to travel, he will enroll his trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program with the U.S. Embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.” Also, Fries is married with two children and has extended family in Georgia, including the  Savannah, and Claxton areas.”

While the final decision is up to the judge, Fries did not persuade DOJ. Prosecutors point out he faces hard time and up to $1 million in fines if convicted of price-fixing.

“For the first time in his life, Mr. Fries stands accused of a felony — one that carries a maximum term of 10 years of imprisonment,” prosecutors argued. “Once in a foreign country, away from the counsel of his attorneys, Mr. Fries — a person of substantial financial means — may find that the circumstances awaiting him upon his return weigh in favor of remaining in Tanzania or fleeing to another country.

“The fact that the United States would face considerable legal challenges to extradition only compounds the problem and creates an unreasonable risk of nonappearance that would deny the public its right to have Mr. Fries stand trial.”

The DOJ motion says  Fries applied for a Tanzanian visa with a start date the same day his trial was set to begin — eight days after he was ordered not to obtain any international travel documents. His trial has since been delayed until February 2021.

“Moreover, he did so with the intent to travel to Tanzania during his trial, which was then scheduled to begin August 10,” prosecutors said. “Simply put, those are not the actions of a defendant who respects the gravity of his situation and who should be entrusted to return voluntarily pursuant to an order of the Court.”

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