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Federal Prosecutors Trying Third Time to Win Antitrust Case

The Justice Department is pushing forward with criminal cases and probes targeting price fixing and other alleged antitrust violations, despite a string of trial losses and questions about whether it has the evidence to back up some of its highest-profile prosecutions, says the Wall Street Journal. Federal prosecutors on Monday are heading to trial in Denver—for a third time—seeking to convict five current and former executives of chicken processors including Pilgrim's Pride and Claxton Poultry Farms. A first attempt ended in mistrial in December and March retrial also ended in a hung jury. Prosecutors grappled with mounds of evidence and sought to try a larger set of defendants.

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer questioned the DOJ’s top antitrust cop in April over the government’s decision to try the case for a third time. “What if the trial goes a third time and it hangs once again?” Brimmer said. “How many times does the department say, ‘We believe in our case,’ as opposed to, ‘Let’s look at the evidence. Let’s look at the fact that, you know, we know how it plays out because the jury hangs every time.’” Pilgrim's Pride pleaded guilty last year to price fixing and paid a $108 million fine. Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, told the judge that prosecutors had streamlined their case and believed the evidence “supports a conviction just as it did the day we charged it.” Kanter says federal antitrust enforcers are getting tough after years of lax oversight. Trying an antitrust case for the third time is unprecedented, according to Lisa Phelan, a former Justice Department attorney now leading the antitrust practice at Morrison & Foerster LLP.


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