RICHLAND, Wash. — Ex-cattleman Cody Easterday, in prison for defrauding Tyson Fresh Meats, will prove he has a legitimate claim against the meatpacker if given the chance, his lawyers argued in a court brief filed Tuesday, March 14.
The brief responds to a motion by Tyson to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Easterday, who claims the company reneged on a deal to share proceeds from selling “Cody’s Beef” in Japan.
Tyson calls the claim implausible and a bid to reduce the $177.1 million Easterday still owes the company in restitution. A hearing on Tyson’s motion is set for April 19 in front of U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Richland, Washington.
Easterday acknowledges any amount won in the lawsuit likely would go for restitution, but argues that doesn’t excuse Tyson from “profiting from the use” of his name and face.
Easterday filed the suit after he was sentenced in October to 11 years in prison for defrauding Tyson out of $233 million and Segale Properties of Tukwila, Washington, out of $11 million.
By selling his family’s Eastern Washington farm empire in bankruptcy court, Easterday made partial restitution to the victims. He’s serving his sentence in a federal prison in Lompoc, California.
Easterday supplied cattle to Tyson’s beef plant in Pasco. He collected payments to buy and raise more than 265,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist.
According to images in court records, Easterday’s picture was printed on beef labels sold in Japan through a joint venture between Tyson and Japanese food conglomerate Nippon Ham.
Tyson has characterized the “Cody’s Beef” campaign as short and not very successful.
Easterday’s criminal defense lawyer speculated in October that Tyson owed Easterday as much as $100 million.
Tyson argues it did business with Easterday Ranches, the family business headed by Cody Easterday, and that it settled business claims with Easterday Ranches in bankruptcy court.
Easterday argues that Tyson’s use of his name and picture was separate from the company’s dealings with Easterday Ranches.
The “Cody’s Beef” campaign was built on Easterday’s personality, according to his lawyers.
Nippon Ham executives who toured Easterday’s operations in Eastern Washington wanted to have his autograph and have their pictures taken with him, according to the brief.
Easterday has said he became addicted to gambling on commodities futures and lost more than $200 million, leading him to resort to billing for nonexistent cattle.
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