A federal magistrate judge in Colorado has denied a request of one of the defendants in a poultry price-fixing case to travel to Africa on safari.
Judge Kristen L. Mix issued her decision last week, but she’s made her ruling a restricted document, meaning the judge is unwilling to share her reasoning with the public. It’s an unusual twist in what was an already unusual request.
Mikell Fries, the president of Claxton Poultry Farm, was indicted along with three others in June for violating the Sherman Act when they allegedly conspired to fix chicken prices and rig bids for broilers. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty. Claxton Poultry, headquartered in Claxton, GA, says it produces 300 million pounds of poultry each year and is a supplier to Chick-fil-A.
Before he was indicted, however, Fries had booked a “once in a lifetime” $37,000 safari to Tanzania for two weeks in August. Fries and the other defendants had agreed to certain conditions when they were released on their own recognizance, but traveling abroad is usually not among the permissible activities and defendants are typically asked to turn over their passports.
Last month Fries’ lawyer asked the judge for permission for Fries to take the trip as his trial was not scheduled until Fed. 16, 2021. They argued Fries is not a flight risk as he has “deep business and personal ties to the United States, and is the employer of 2,000 Georgians and his multi-generational family all reside there. The $37,000 spent on the safari is not refundable.
At the time of the request federal prosecutors objected, noting that any extradition from Tanzania would be difficult should Fries decide not to come home.
Fries was indicted along with Claxton vice president Scott Brady, Pilgrim’s Pride President Jayson Jeffrey Penn and vice president Roger Austin.