Chris Lischewski, the former CEO of Bumble Bee Foods who in June was sentenced to 40 months in prison and given a USD 100,000 (EUR 85,878) fine for his role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of canned tuna sold in the U.S. between 2011 and 2013 – has reached a settlement on a lawsuit brought by Washington state as he also pushes for a reduced prison sentence in light of COVID-19.
The settlement, totaling USD 100,000, was part of an ongoing lawsuit by the state against Starkist Company and Lischewski. The state had commenced an antitrust action against Lischewski on 2 June 2020, alleging he had knowingly participated in “an unlawful conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by reaching agreements to fix, raise, and maintain the prices of packaged tuna products sold in the state of Washington in violation of the CPA,” the settlement states.
Lischewski and legal representatives of the state had “engaged in arms-length negotiations” about resolving the case without a costly trial, according to the settlement. The two parties agreed that the settlement was reasonable “in light of, among other things, plaintiff’s claims and alleged damages, defendant Lischewski’s defenses, the risk and expense of continuing and protracted litigation, and the extent of each party’s investigation, discovery, and preparation for trial.”
The settlement is not an admission of guilt – the settlement states Lischewski does not admit the allegations and continues to assert he has a valid defense to the lawsuit. But Lischewski is required to pay the settlement within 60 days. The claims in the lawsuit against Starkist will continue.
Nearly alongside the settlement with Washington state, attorneys for Lischewski submitted a motion – three months in to his prison sentence – requesting a shortening of his 40-month sentence in light of current conditions in United States Penitentiary Tucson, the minimum-secuirty prison where Lischewski has been serving his sentence since August.
An initial motion on 20 October – which the U.S. Court of the Northern District of California is opposing – claims that Lischewski has been forced to “endure inhumane conditions in prison,” which include “eighteen consecutive days of solitary confinement amounting to torture," as a result of COVID-related mitigation measures put in place by the prison.
The motion to reduce the sentence claims that while some restrictions in light of COVID-19 are warranted, the burden of suffering they placed upon Lischewski was extreme.
“While we recognize that the [Bureau of Prisons] must take steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the conditions of confinement imposed on Mr. Lischewski extend far beyond what is necessary to protect against the virus,” the initial request states.
The motion to reduce the sentence also claims that the government had not done enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, and that it had downplayed the harsh conditions. It also states Lischewski was treated unnecessarily harshly while under confinement, and that he was denied reading materials, not given a bed, and was required to eat meals inside his cell. It also calls out the current restrictions on visitors, limited times for visitations, and restricted movements in the prison.
In response, the court said that Lischewski’s initial “temporary conditions of confinement” were part of a now-completed quarantine, and that the conditions were not “extraordinary and compelling.”
“Those conditions and restrictions are applicable to all prisoners and are the result of BOP’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to inmates imprisoned at USP Tucson,” the court responded.
Movement restrictions, visitor bans, and other restrictions are entirely related to reducing the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. opposition to the motion states.
Following the opposition, Lischewski’s attorneys replied that they hoped the court “takes accurate measure” of Lischewski.
“We recognize that the government only sees the worst in Mr. Lischewski – it always has,” the reply states. “We are hopeful that this court will take accurate measure of Mr. Lischewski the human being and fairly evaluate the inhumane and dangerous conditions he has been – and continues to be – subjected to in prison.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Lischewski/LinkedIn