JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tuesday’s latest court filing cites nearly a dozen reasons why an attorney for Koch Foods believes the federal government illegally searched the company’s Morton facility in August during the largest single-day raid in U.S. history, and therefore cannot use anything obtained under that search in a future case against the company.
The filing comes amid public criticism toward the U.S. Attorney’s Office that neither employers nor key company officials have been charged in the weeks following that raid.
The 18-page memorandum, filed in support of Koch’s August 30 motion to suppress evidence obtained during last month’s raid, details why the company believes the search warrant was founded on suspicion, not probable cause as required by law.
“The affidavit supporting the search warrant executed at Koch Foods’ Processing Plant in Morton, Mississippi on Aug. 7, 2019, does not contain any evidence that Koch Foods knowingly employed persons lacking sufficient work authorization,” attorney Michael T. Dawkins wrote in the memo.
First, Dawkins contends that the search warrant was not obtained in good faith, writing that the affidavit is founded entirely on the presumption that, because undocumented workers -- who admitted to working at Koch Foods’ Morton facility -- had been deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the past, “it should be assumed that Koch Foods must have known that they were hiring unauthorized workers.”
Dawkins also asserts that the U.S. government’s use of anonymous tips to establish probable cause “must be given particular scrutiny."
In the initial search warrant affidavit, Special Agent Anthony Todd Williams Jr. reported numerous anonymous tips suggested Koch Foods was knowingly hiring and employing illegal aliens, but stopped short of mentioning specific calls or other information to support that claim.
Another portion of the affidavit focuses on a 17-year period where ICE arrested approximately 144 undocumented workers who, at one time, worked at Koch Foods.
Williams maintained that high number meant the company was knowingly hiring unauthorized workers.
Dawkins said that number accounts for less than two percent of all employees hired under a similar time frame, calling the number “statistically insignificant.”
The memorandum also claims the government specifically excluded information that demonstrated Koch Foods had assisted ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s Office after discovering unauthorized workers at its facility in 2008, turning over results of its investigation to federal officials and cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for several months.
Another significant claim Williams stressed in the original affidavit was that Koch Foods had to know some of its employees were undocumented because some wore ankle monitoring devices part of ICE’s Alternative to Detention Program.
Dawkins responded by mentioning that ankle monitors can be used by a variety of law enforcement agencies -- not just ICE -- and supervisors “cannot engage in discriminatory behavior by questioning Hispanic employees about ankle monitors while ignoring ankle monitors worn by white and African-American employees.”
Dawkins maintains that the evidence obtained by federal agents -- including computer equipment and more than sixty boxes of miscellaneous documents, according to court documents -- should be returned to Koch Foods immediately under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
“If this search is allowed to stand, lawful businesses across the nation who legally hire immigrants are exposed to illegal searches founded on suspicion rather than probable cause,” Dawkins wrote in the motion.
Neither Koch Foods nor any company officials have been charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office at this point.