Tomato scion Frederick Scott Salyer beefs up his legal team


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The defense team of indicted tomato scion Frederick Scott Salyer has just gotten a very high-powered and high-priced player: John Keker.

The San Francisco attorney, a retired Marine who reportedly charges $900 an hour for his time, has been involved in some of the most high-profile cases in recent years. When Google Inc. faced a pending legal battle with Microsoft Corp., the Silicon Valley giant hired Keker’s firm.


Keker’s own resume is impressive: prosecuting (successfully) Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal; serving as legal counsel to Lance Armstrong; defending Andrew Fastow, the former Enron chief financial officer who was accused of orchestrating the partnerships the onetime energy giant used to mask its debt and inflate its earnings.

Salyer is being blamed for running SK Foods –- the tomato processing outfit he started with his father, Fred -– into bankruptcy, and is accused of committing crimes far worse. Salyer and SK Foods, the government alleges, tricked supermarkets and big food companies into buying substandard tomato products to put into brands found in almost every U.S. cupboard.

Scott Salyer is under house arrest in Pebble Beach. A jury trial is slated to begin April 17.

Federal prosecutors tried to block Keker from entering the SK Foods legal fight. They argued in Sacramento federal court that Keker’s law firm had a conflict of interest in the case because it had represented Mark S. Grewal, a former SK Foods executive.

The judge, however, shot down the prosecution’s argument and allowed Keker to join Team Salyer.



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--P.J. Huffstutter