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Victims of 2015 Listeria outbreak involving Blue Bell invited to follow Kruse case

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Victims of foodborne illness are often so numerous that the government wants to cast the wide internet in contacting them about felony prosecutions that often occur years later.

Federal prosecutors who plan to take former Blue Bell Creameries president Paul Kruse to a jury trial in July are telling the judge this is just such a case. They filed a motion on Friday, Feb. 12, asking for a court order authorizing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to comply with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act “by using reasonable alternative measures for notifying potential unknown victims” in the Kruse case where the defendant is charged with multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy in relation to a deadly Listeria outbreak

“Specifically, the United States seeks an order pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3771(d)(2) authorizing compliance with the Act by publishing information about the case on the Department of Justice’s publicly accessible website,” says the motion.

The new prosecution motion says the Act:

  • provides certain rights to victims in federal criminal proceedings, among them the right to “reasonable, accurate, and timely notice” of public court proceedings, and the right “to confer with the attorney for the government in the case.” 
  •  further provides that agencies of the United States “shall make their best efforts to see that crime victims are notified of, and accorded, the rights described. . .”
  •  defines a crime victim as “a person directly and proximately harmed” as a result of the commission of a federal offense.
  •  recognizes that for crimes involving multiple victims, the court has the discretion to adopt procedures that will not unduly interfere with the criminal proceedings”

The DOJ’s attorneys say that in a case where the court finds the number of crime victims makes it impracticable to accord all of them the rights described in subsection (a), the court shall fashion a reasonable procedure to give effect to this chapter that does not unduly complicate or prolong the proceedings. 

“In this case, defendant Paul Kruse was charged by indictment with six counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in relation to his alleged role in deceiving customers of the company of which he was president, Blue Bell Creameries, regarding the potential contamination of company ice cream products,” prosectors said.  

“Defendant’s alleged conduct is described at length in an indictment filed with this court on Oct. 20, 2020. The contaminated ice cream ultimately was purchased by numerous institutional customers and an unknown number of consumers.” 

They say the Kruse case fits within the “multiple crime victims” exception to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and believes it would be “impracticable” under Section 3771(d)(2) to identify, locate, and provide personal notification by mail to any unknown, potential outstanding victims. 

“Notice of the case and upcoming proceedings by a posting on the official Department of Justice ‘Large Case’ website is a reasonable procedure that will give effect to the Act and will not unduly complicate or prolong the public court proceedings,” the motion says.

“To that end, the Department of Justice’s public website now contains a statement regarding this case and victim rights to further ensure notification to any unknown potential victims. The government submits this widely available and easily accessible public information satisfies the requirements of the Act for a multiple crime victims case in which it would be impracticable to identify, locate and provide personal notification to any potential victims. “

The government attorneys say rights enumerated in the Act may be asserted only by crime victims, their counsel, and government counsel. As a result, the defendant’s position on this notice is not required for the court to make the determination. Defense attorneys have not responded to the motion.

Specifically, the government is asking the court to list Kruse case information on the Department of Justice Large Case Website.

The government’s attorneys see DOJ’s Large Case Website as the most efficient way to keep victims of the 2015 Listeria outbreak informed on the progress in the case.

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