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Prosecutors to SK Foods' Frederick Scott Salyer: Pony up for jailhouse room

July 16, 2010 |  8:48 pm

So what happens when an allegedly corrupt tomato king needs space to wade through a mountain of evidentary paperwork -- and a budget-wary government realizes it's costing a pretty penny in staffing costs?

You go to court, of course.

Federal prosecutors this week filed a motion to U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, complaining that SK Foods' Frederick Scott Salyer had essentially turned the lineup room at the Sacramento County Main Jail into a powwow center for strategizing all of his legal fights -- not just the criminal one.

"The overtime costs associated with the lineup room are running about $6,000 per month," Assistant U.S. Atty. Matthew D. Segal wrote in a motion filed Tuesday.

"The defendant is not indigent," Segal added. "Under the circumstances, the United States requests that he be required to make some meaningful contribution towards the expenses associated with his use of the lineup room. Half would be a fair amount."

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

This isn't the first fight over Salyer's jailhouse antics while he waits for his case to go to trial. In May, one of his defense team's paralegals was barred from visiting the jail after unknowingly bringing 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.

Salyer's defense team, though, is outraged at the feds trying to give it a bill. Their take: The court has denied Salyer's bid for electronically monitored house arrest, and prosecutors had told Judge Karlton that the government would make arrangements at the jail to allow the former agribusiness executive to review the evidence.

But prosecutors insist that Salyer is abusing the space. They hint that Salyer -- who is facing a slew of other legal woes, including civil and bankruptcy cases -- is using the lineup room as a de facto conference center for meeting with accountants and others in these other, unrelated fights.

"[T]he court might inquire as to whether the lineup room has been used strictly for criminal defense, and not for bankruptcy litigation or the discussion of ongoing financial affairs," Segal wrote.

The battle over the room's use, and who's going to pay for what, will be one of the issues raised during an Aug. 3 hearing.

-- P.J. Huffstutter