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Two Colorado cantaloupe farmers avoid jail in deadly listeria outbreak

Jan. 29, 2014 at 7:02 AM

HOLLY, Colo., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Two Colorado farmers whose cantaloupes killed 33 people in a 2011 listeria outbreak were sentenced to five years probation and six months home detention.

In addition to the probation and home detention, brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen of Holly were each ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the families of the victims.

The brothers met with the victims' families in private several months ago, but apologized again in court, the Denver Post reported Tuesday.

"This has been a huge tragedy for everyone involved, and we are very, very sorry," Eric Jensen said.

The outbreak occurred after the Jensens added a potato sorter fitted with melon-scrubbing brushes to help clean the cantaloupe. The Food and Drug Administration said the sorter allowed dirty water to pool and contaminate the fruit.

Forrest Lewis, Eric Jensen's attorney, said the incident was "a horrible alignment of the stars over this beautiful little farm."

Some of the victims' families were on hand during the sentencing. Some wanted the brothers to serve jail time; others wanted them free to work to be able to pay restitution.

"You can't put a dollar amount in front of me that's going to make me happy," said Jim Weatherred, whose father, Jim, died after eating contaminated melon. "But putting those two boys in jail is not going to help."

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