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Does nude photo of jailed SK Foods co-founder's girlfriend -- holding tomatoes -- qualify as produce porn?

May 11, 2010 |  7:13 pm

Tomatoes Forget the cheesecake shots. When it comes to women, former agribusiness executive Frederick Scott Salyer seems to like his pin-up girl to be one hot tomato.

Or, in this case, two hot -- and strategically placed? -- tomatoes.

Salyer, who co-founded the Monterey-based tomato processing firm SK Foods, has been indicted (and pleaded not guilty) to anti-trust charges, racketeering and other counts of corruption for allegedly directing a decadelong scheme to quash competition of his now- defunct company and conspiring to sell tomato products at inflated prices.

While he's waiting for his case to go to trial, his legal team has hit a revealing snag: According to court documents that were filed last week, Salyer’s defense attorney has had one of his firm’s paralegals banned from the Sacramento Main County Jail line-up room, which is where the 54-year-old has been meeting with his lawyers.

The reason? The paralegal had -- unknowingly, mind you -- brought in a piece of mail for Salyer from one of his girlfriends. What she didn’t realize was that the mail included, among other things, a naked photograph of the girlfriend “holding two tomatoes in front of her body,” according to a court filing.

Awkward.

The mail also included a head shot of the woman, a letter and an emery board -- a violation of jailhouse rules. (“His friends had heard him complain that his nails were ragged,” said defense attorney Malcolm Segal.)

“The jail advises that an emery board can be used to reshape other objects in prohibited ways,” federal prosecutors wrote in a statement filed with the Sacramento federal court. (The prosecutors, however, did not say what rule the produce-framed pin-up photo broke. They also declined to publicly release said photo.)

Segal said the news of the naughty package came as a shock to him and his staff, who said they had been receiving mail for Salyer from friends and relatives for quite some time, and had carried it into the line-up room without complaint -- and carried out mail for others from Salyer.

Salyer’s gift-sending pen pal had written “Atty Client” on the outside of the envelope, a phrase normally used to indicate that the contents would be protected by attorney-client privilege.

“No one in my office had considered searching the mail. No one had a clue what was in the envelope,” Segal said. “I have no idea what precipitated this” search of the mail by jail officials.

All incoming and outgoing mail is searched by the jail's staff, said Sgt. Tim Curran, spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. As soon as mail is determined to be protected by attorney-client privilege, "it stops getting read," Curran said.

And Salyer, say prosecutors, has been pushing the envelope.

According to a declaration submitted to the court, Deputy Sheriff Jesse Brucker said he was taking Salyer back to his cell last week when the two started talking about the difference between personal mail and legal mail. Salyer, according to Brucker, said he was using the jail’s legal mail system to send letters to friends. The deputy said he told Salyer that was a no-no.

Salyer reportedly responded that “the harder that the jail made it on him, the better it would be for him."

“In the context of our conversation,” Brucker added, “I took this to mean that he meant that it would help him with his case.”

--P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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