001011 Tyson Exec Sentenced to One YearOctober 2, 2000
Washington - A judge who tried to acquit a Tyson Foods executive reluctantly sentenced the man to a year in prison Monday for illegally trying to influence a former agriculture secretary.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who has overturned Archie Schaffer III's convictions twice and has been reversed both times, said Schaffer, a vice president of the nation's largest poultry producer, deserved only probation and a fine.
But Robertson said he was required to impose the prison sentence by the 93- year-old agriculture law under which Schaffer was convicted.
The decision pleased no one. Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz, who requested a three-year sentence, said he will decide in a couple of days whether to appeal.
Schaffer's attorneys, who wanted probation, immediately asked the judge to delay the prison reporting date pending an appeal. Robertson let Schaffer remain free while he decides.
The judge's sentence includes the minimum $5,000 fine, plus one year and one day in prison. Robertson said the extra day would make Schaffer eligible for good-behavior credits that could allow him to go free almost two months early.
“Obviously, I'm disappointed with what the judge felt he had to do today, but it's not unexpected,” Schaffer said. “We will be appealing the sentence.”
The sentencing was one of the last lingering items in Smaltz's six-year, $23 million investigation into President Clinton (news - web sites)'s first agriculture secretary, Mike Espy. Jurors acquitted Espy of any wrongdoing in December 1998.
Robertson said Schaffer, a nephew of former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., deserved a lighter sentence because of his exceptional community involvement and because he reaped no personal gain from arranging for Espy to attend a 1993 Tyson birthday party in Arkansas.
Almost 100 people, including Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and past and present Congress members, wrote Robertson requests for leniency. In Arkansas and elsewhere, people have slapped “Free Archie” bumper stickers on their vehicles.
Schaffer has drawn support from numerous Arkansas politicians, university professors, a former professional baseball player and the agent in charge of the Little Rock office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
“That is an absolute travesty, an insult to the real justice system,” Huckabee said after the sentencing.
“The recent outpouring of support from an incredibly diverse range of people throughout the state is evidence of the upright and honorable activities exhibited by Archie in his highly visible career,” Tyson Foods said in a statement. “We regret that Archie and his family have been forced to endure this terrible ordeal.”
Huckabee and everybody in Arkansas' congressional delegation have asked President Clinton to pardon his longtime friend and supporter.
“All of us would urge the president to act upon this pardon immediately,” Huckabee said. “Please don't let this man spend one day disgraced and humiliated because of vicious politics.”