A federal judge refused to declare a mistrial in the antitrust conspiracy trial of former Sea Star Line CEO Frank Peake, accused of involvement in price-fixing by carriers between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico.
Peake went on trial Jan. 14 following jury selection in U.S. District Court in San Juan.
His attorneys sought a mistrial after prosecutors said in opening statements that carrier price-fixing raised costs for Puerto Rico for everything from children’s school lunches to goods and products of “businesses like Burger King, Office Max and Walgreens.”
Judge Daniel R. Dominguez ruled that prosecutors’ statements “did not inflame the hearts of the jurors or otherwise arouse such pride for Puerto Rico as to ineradicably taint the jury and thereby impede Peake’s constitutional right to a fair trial by an unbiased jury.”
Witnesses in the trial have included Peter Baci, who was senior vice president under Peake at Sea Star, and former Horizon executives Gabriel Serra and Gregory Glova. They are among five ex-Sea Star and Horizon officials who have served prison terms for price-fixing or concealing evidence.
Prosecutors say Sea Star and Horizon began colluding on rates between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico in 2002 and that the conspiracy later was expanded to Crowley Liner Services. All three lines pleaded guilty to criminal antitrust charges.
The three lines paid a total of more than $46 million in criminal penalties in addition to more than $57 million in class-action civil settlements to direct or indirect customers, in addition to civil settlements with individual customers.