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News Analysis: Thursday May 29, 2008

posted on May 30, 2008 at 1:02 PM

Yeager: David Pitt of the Associated Press. And David, let's talk about a topic we've had on here, it's been a couple of weeks, but the Postville raids. There is new information about these raids. What is it?

Pitt: Well, I think the new information we have today is more what is happening at the plant and investigations that had begun before the raids occurred. I think we had reported before that prior to the raids on the 12th of May there had been an investigation into child labor violations at the plant. We're hearing today that those investigations now have resumed. They had kind of been suspended for a while because when the immigration agents came into the plant they took the records from the plant and so that kind of stalled that investigation but it has started again between the state of Iowa and the federal agencies. So, they're looking at whether or not there were minors being employed at the plant.

Yeager: So, is this a federal investigation or is this a state investigation?

Pitt: It's a cooperative investigation. I'm told today that most likely if they find that there were violations it will probably be prosecuted on the state level though these cases will be prosecuted by the county attorney there.

Yeager: That's something that was talked about highly about those who were involved in the plant. They said, oh, everybody knew inside that the factory employers -- but now we're actually hearing that there's some legitimacy confirming an investigation.

Pitt: That's correct. There is an investigation and also another development today is that the plant had been fined prior to the raid for a number of safety violations, those fines totaled about $182,000 which was a very large fine for one single company. There was some negotiations and it's typical for companies that are fined in those regards to come to the state agency and sit down with them and try to work out solving some of the problems. And this plant the problems included handling of hazardous chemicals and failure to develop emergency response plans within the plant and having warnings that could be heard by all of the workers throughout the plant, just different things like that. So, the fines were reduced, actually, after the company officials sat down with the state agency to discuss how they could resolve some of the problems. The fines were reduced from $182,000 to about $40,000. So, there is activity kind of surrounding what is happening and what has been happening at this plant in Postville.

Yeager: But at this point we don’t know if owners -- we know the CEO has changed but we don't know if owners are going to be taken away to jail just like some of the other arrests were made, we don't know of any part of that investigation?

Pitt: There has not been any charges filed against owners, managers, I talked to some ICE officials, though, and immigration officials and they do say that they do take it seriously, that they do pursue company owners and officials and they provided some statistics. It pales in comparison with the number of actual workers that have been arrested and charged over the last year. But they say that if there are violations found that they plan on pursuing them. We have no charges filed as of yet.

Yeager: Okay. Let's talk another serious matter, this one evolving in Iowa City, two former University of Iowa football players this week were charged by the Johnson County attorney, both no longer on the team have transferred to other schools. What is the status of this? What brought this investigation, first of all? It happened back in October, right?

Pitt: Right, the investigation started shortly, I think in November actually. It initially occurred, from our understanding, in October. It involves two now former football players at the University of Iowa. One appeared in court today, turned himself into the authorities. He is from Detroit, now lives in Mississippi but he came back to Iowa to face the charges. And the second person who was named Abe Satterfield from Pennsylvania, now living in Indiana and going to college there, has not yet reported himself to authorities.

Yeager: Any idea when that may happen?

Pitt: I haven't heard.

Yeager: Coach Ferentz hasn't said anything or made any statements about this. He did speak about it before or at least at the end of the season but it just appears that this is the next step in this process that it is going forward.

Pitt: Yeah, and it looks like they're going to let the criminal justice system take the cases and deal with them as they see fit.

Yeager: Okay. And one other thing we need to talk about is tornadoes. We're talking about Parkersburg this evening. But this is a trend that appears nationwide, it's on the rise up, it's around 1200, I believe, tornadoes a year and we're already at 1200.

Pitt: Right, it appears that this has been one of the deadliest years or the deadliest year so far since 1998 and that is based on statistics. We've had something like 1200 sighted this year, by the time multiple sightings are taken out it may be less than 1000 but still only being halfway through the year we're certainly on target to perhaps get to the 1800 that occurred in 2004.

Yeager: Is that the record year?

Pitt: Yes.

Yeager: And is there any reason that any meteorologists have studied why we're seeing those?

Pitt: Well, there are a lot of people saying a lot of different things but I really think that from what they're telling us it looks like simply that this year we have more severe tornadoes, they seem to be more severe, the F5 type or F4 tornadoes and a lot more people living in mobile homes and structures which I'm sure we'll probably talk about later in the show. But it appears to be just a lot more tornadoes being thrown at us and more severe in nature.

Yeager: David Pitt of the Associated Press, thank you for stopping by tonight.

 

Tags: Iowa news