A federal judge granted a request by prosecutors this morning to dismiss the forced labor charges and related counts against brothers Alec and Mike Sou of Aloun Farms.
In the stunning announcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Cushman told U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., and the local U.S. Attorneys Office were asking for the dismissal “in the interests of justice.”
Mollway granted the request to permanently dismiss the case.
“The case is closed,” she said.
Cushman said the decision to drop the case was made after discussions last night and this morning with the Justice Department’s civil rights division in Washington D.C.
“It’s the right thing to do,” U. S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni said.
The dismissal came before the start of what would have been the fourth day of a trial that was expected to span more than a month.
Asked how he felt, Alec Sou said, “Super-elated, man. It’s like 10 tons of watermelon lifted off my shoulder.”
The Sous’ lawyers were also elated.
“This confirms what we believed all along that this prosecution was baselesss and without merit,” Mike Sou’s attorney Thomas Otake said.
A federal judge issued a ban Friday on any future planting of genetically modified sugar beets, potentially imperiling nearly all of the United States crop.
Judge Jeffrey S. White of United States District Court in San Francisco ruled that the Department of Agriculture had failed to conduct a required environmental impact statement before approving the genetically modified beets. Such beets now account for about 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beet production and nearly half of the sugar produced.
It is unclear how quickly the Department of Agriculture could complete the environmental study and reconsider approval of the genetically engineered beets. The environmental groups that brought the lawsuit argued that genetically modified beets would contaminate unmodified crops grown nearby by organic farmers and others who chose to plant conventional seeds.
Sugar beet growers sold the 2007-8 crop for about $1.335 billion, according to U.S.D.A. data.