A federal judge has delayed Cody Easterday’s sentencing for the third time until June 13, giving time to settle bankruptcy proceedings.
Judge Stanley A. Bastian of the U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern Washington stated there were several reasons for granting the motion to delay, primarily “for the convenience of the bankruptcy court.”
“Part of the mess that has been created here is not just the criminal,” Bastian said. “Mr. Easterday will face justice and certainly at the appropriate time, but the bankruptcy court and Judge (Whitman) Holt have quite a significant case on this docket and they need all the parties present and available to that court to resolve.”
The lawyer for Cody Easterday is seeking postponement from sentencing for the third time, citing Easterday needs to participate in the bankruptcy settlement to repay creditors.
Easterday was scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 24, but Carl J. Oreskovich, Easterday’s lawyer, sought a delay over the objections of the Justice Department and Tyson Fresh Meats.
Tyson Fresh Meats filed court documents on Jan. 4 objecting to the sentencing delay, stating Easterday has “mischaracterized” the circumstances of the bankruptcy and the “cooperation” to allegedly “benefit” Tyson and the other beneficiary. Easterday defrauded Tyson Fresh Meats and another unnamed company of $244 million for the “ghost cattle” scheme.
Tyson stated in court documents in the early days of bankruptcy proceedings, the Easterday family was willing to work with creditors on the sale of several parcels “so that proceeds from the sale were maximized.”
“The sale is now closed, and unfortunately, defendant’s feigned cooperation is long over,” Tyson wrote in the brief. “Indeed, (the) defendant is now actively seeking to thwart creditor recoveries by steering tens of millions of dollars in disputed sale proceeds to his mother and wife rather than to creditors.”
Easterday Ranches has settled with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), agreeing to pay $30 million after other creditors are paid.
Tyson argued Easterday’s activities on behalf of the family and, in opposition to the creditors, has led to an “allocation complaint” from the Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches independent boards of directors against Cody and the family. The independent board is also pursuing confirmation of the bankruptcy plan, “Which, if confirmed, will allocate all net proceeds from such disputed properties to creditors (including Tyson and others) and provide zero recovery to the Easterday family on account of their equity interests.”
Additionally, Tyson argued Easterday is “materially increasing administrative expense in the
bankruptcy” by demanding the resignation of three of the independent board members.
“Defendant knows that requiring each of Ranches and Farms to retain a new board and retain new professionals would add material expense and delay for the bankruptcy estates,” Tyson wrote in the brief. “Defendant’s attempt to displace the very disinterested professionals he chose is a clear attempt to delay, and ultimately to frustrate, creditor recoveries in the bankruptcy.”
In response to Tyson’s complaint , Oreskovich asserted, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Oreskovich stated the family has cooperated and assisted with liquidating the assets worth over $358 million. Court documents revealed the amount was a result of selling 22,500 acres for $209 million to Farmland Reserve, personal property and equipment for $14 million, the 79,000 head of cattle on feed as of December 2020 worth $100 million, and $40 million of harvested crops for the 2020 and 2021 growing season.
The court documents also state the Easterday family submitted a settlement to “interested parties” in July 2021 and they rejected the offer. It also claimed that Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches are two separate entities and that Tyson Fresh Meats filed a proof of claim against the Ranches and has no claims against Easterday Farms.
Regarding the allocation trial, Oreskovich wrote the Easterday family is defending the litigation and “of course, have every right to defend such claims.” The trial in the matter is scheduled for April 18.
Bastian agreed to delay sentencing until after the trial, stating, “Mr. Easterday is doing what he promised to do when he pled guilty in my courtroom, to try to help clean this mess up as best that he can and that includes assisting the bankruptcy court.”
Bastian also stated he would prefer to sentence Easterday in person and not by video conference, but COVID-19 protocols prevented him from doing so. Easterday pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in March 2021 and faces up to 20 years in prison. — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor