Deportations hurt immigration charges defense, says poultry company

The Charlotte ObserverOctober 20, 2009 

Columbia Farms, set to face trial soon on charges that it knowingly employed illegal immigrants, is taking an unusual legal approach: It's arguing the charges should be dismissed because the government deported workers who might have helped the defense.

Last October, federal authorities raided the poultry company's Greenville, S.C. plant, and quickly deported more than 300 workers. Authorities have also charged the company and two of its top managers - Greenville complex manager Barry Cronic and human resources director Elaine Crump.

In a recent court motion, company attorneys argue the government denied their clients "favorable and material testimony" because it didn't give them a chance to interview workers before deporting them.

It's unclear what the deported immigrants might have provided to the defense. But defense attorneys contended the government wouldn't have deported the workers so quickly if it thought they would help the prosecution.

In their motion filed Oct. 9 in federal court in Greenville, the defense attorneys argued that legal precedent is on their side.

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