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Tyson's smuggling charges dropped

(Sunday, March 16, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Associated Press, 03/15/03: A judge dismissed immigrant smuggling charges against Tyson Foods on Friday but allowed the trial of the poultry giant to continue on key conspiracy counts.

U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar dismissed 15 charges, agreeing with Tyson's lawyers that prosecutors had failed to prove that the company or any managers requested two deliveries of illegal workers from undercover agents posing as smugglers.

Tyson and some former managers are accused of hiring illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America as part of a conspiracy to boost production and profits at the nation's largest poultry processor.

On Friday, Tyson lawyers began presenting what they say will be two weeks of evidence to counter the 12 remaining charges related to conspiracy, transporting illegal immigrants and fraudulent documents.

The company, based in Springdale, Ark., contends that the government's investigation involved only a few plant managers who independently violated Tyson's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal hiring. The trial is taking place in Chattanooga, Tenn.