The U.S. Department of Justice is being sued over its refusal to publicly disclose a $2 million non-prosecution agreement prosecutors reached with a Houston-based tree services company that employed undocumented workers.
The U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Texas issued a news release in May 2012 revealing the deal between prosecutors and ABC Professional Tree Services Inc. The company agreed to forfeit $2 million in revenue that flowed from the use of undocumented workers between 2006 and 2011, DOJ officials said.
But prosecutors will not disclose a copy of the agreement between the government and ABC, according to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed Nov. 26 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression represents the challenger, Jonathan Ashley, a business reference librarian at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Ashley and Brandon Garrett, a criminal justice professor at the law school, run a web site that features hundreds of deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements. Garrett in 2007 published an article in the Virginia Law Review that explored these pre-trial deals—where the government often collects a fine, and demands remedial action, in exchange for not pursuing criminal charges.