AP’s Dan Elliott reported from Denver that two Colorado cantaloupe farmers linked to the nation’s deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in a quarter-century were sentenced Tuesday to probation and home detention, but the judge said he wasn’t sending them to prison so they could work to pay off $150,000 each in restitution.  Each will serve five years of probation and six months of home detention and perform 100 hours of community service.

Before they were sentenced, Eric and Ryan Jensen read statements apologizing to the victims of the 2011 listeria outbreak, which killed 33 people and sickened 147 in 28 states, according to federal health authorities.

  • “I can’t begin to describe how ghastly it is to watch someone die,” said Patricia Hauser. She said her husband, Michael, suffered a slow and agonizing death.  Occasionally looking toward the Jensen brothers as she spoke, Hauser said they should be sentenced to prison and fined. She told the judge she was “very bitter.”  “Someone took my Michael from me, and it just isn’t fair,” she said.
  • Jim Weathered said his father, also named Jim, died of listeria but would have wanted probation for the Jensens.  “Sending those boys to jail isn’t going to help anybody in this situation,” said Weathered, who often struggled to control his emotions during his brief statement.
  • Paul F. Schwarz said he would accept whatever sentence Hegarty handed down after the death of his father, Paul A. Schwarz. But at one point he looked toward the Jensens and asked, “What were you thinking?”