William Zirkle has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit accusing him and two other executives at the Selah-based fruit company of conspiring to hire thousands of illegal immigrants in order to keep wages low.
The executives admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. The corporation, Zirkle Fruit, was not a defendant.
“Mr. Zirkle knows no one did anything wrong,” Ryan Edgley, his lawyer, said Thursday. “Mr. Zirkle primarily wanted to put an end to the uncertainty.”
The case was set for trial Jan. 9 before U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.
Edgley said the defendants were concerned that even if they prevailed before a jury, the plaintiffs would appeal and the legal defense bills would continue to mount.
“Frankly my client’s confidence in the system was shaken in this case,” Edgley said.
Had Zirkle lost at trial, he and the other defendants, Gary Hudson and William Wangler, could have faced triple damages under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Foster, who writes occasionally for an anti-immigration Web journal called VDARE.com, is using RICO with mixed results. The U.S. Supreme Court could bring some certainty to the matter next year when it hears a case against Mohawk Industries. The Georgia carpet company is accused of hiring illegal workers and depressing the wages of legal workers.