Sunday, February 5, 2023 Feb 5, 2023
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How the Pig-Blood-in-the-Trinity People Can Beat the Rap

Some legal advice for Columbia Packing Company.
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Illustration by Pep Montserrat

Just after Christmas, a grand jury returned an 18-count indictment against Columbia Packing Company and two of its vice presidents, Joe Ondrusek Jr. and his cousin Donny. You probably know Columbia better as the meatpacking outfit accused of dumping pig blood into the Trinity River or, more simply, “the pig blood people.”

Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but we all saw the Old Testament-style aerial images of the river literally running red with blood. Only a money-mad mercenary with no scruples would sign on to advise these fellows how to beat the rap. Which is why I’ve laid out the following plan for the Ondruseks.

When you get to court, here is your opening statement: “Everything that guy just said is bullshit.” Yeah, it’s a line from My Cousin Vinny, but, you know, talent borrows, genius steals, right? I think it was Jim Belushi who said that. Anyway, the jury now knows that 1) you’re not going to be pushed around, and 2) you’re probably pretty good at the movie trivia game Scene It?

Before the trial goes too far, the prosecution will more than likely object to the fact that you have a pig sitting at the defense table. Maybe they’re so confident in their case that they’ll just try to ignore it, even though the pig, just like the Columbia logo, is wearing a bright blue cowboy hat. But they probably will object. Here’s how you handle that: remind the court that Columbia has been a family company since 1913, when Josef Ondrusek opened Columbia Meat Market and Sausage Factory near downtown Dallas. Furthermore, from the beginning, the Ondruseks have always treated the animals that come into their plant as family. Thus, if the Ondruseks are on trial, then the pigs are on trial, too, and Pete—that’s the pig’s name—has as much right to sit there as anyone, since he has been the Pigs Union Local 107 representative since his predecessor, Jerry, was slaughtered in late 2011 so he could be turned into delicious thick-cut peppered bacon.

Might not work, but that’s okay. You’ve shown the jury that you care and that, at its core, Columbia is about family. Plus, everyone is now thinking about delicious thick-cut peppered bacon, especially since Donny has been frying up a pan of it on a hot plate at the defense table while your lawyer was talking. The prosecution might object to this, too. That just means there is more for everyone else.

You know what pairs well with delicious thick-cut peppered bacon? Bloody Marys. Helpfully, Donny has already mixed up a pitcher. After everyone in the court has had a taste, your lawyer will casually let folks know that what they just drank was made with genuine, Columbia-approved pig blood. Your lawyer will explain that the Ondruseks have been drinking pig blood since Josef was running his little family meat market, partially for the taste but mostly for its health benefits. To demonstrate, family patriarch and company president Joe Sr. will drop to the floor in front of the bench and snap off 50 push-ups.

Don’t worry too much about the prosecution’s case. Your lawyers shouldn’t object or ask too many questions during cross-examination. Make it go by as quickly as possible. All that matters is the defense portion of the proceedings.

Joe Jr. will take the stand first. He will admit that Columbia had, in fact, been adding pig blood to the water table at various locations all across the city for years. But they were doing it only because they cared about the health of the citizenry, and Mayor Jean Baptiste Adoue Jr.—long known as a proponent of the practice—hired them to do it in 1951. Joe Jr. will again point to his father and the wonders pig blood has done for him. Joe Sr. will approach the bench, drop to the floor, and knock out 100 bicycle sit-ups.

But Joe Jr. will say they never, not even once, dumped blood into the Trinity. What about all that blood in the river then? “Well,” Joe Jr. will say, “we wondered about it, too. We had it tested and it turned out it was zebra blood.” Your lawyer shouldn’t try to follow up too fast here, because people will be gasping. When everything calms down, Joe Jr. will say his investigators tracked the source of the zebra blood to an illegal petting zoo and coat factory just up the river. They hadn’t had time to uncover the owners of the operation, but it appeared to be a high-level cabal involving members of the local government, the Dallas Morning News, someone from Jerry Jones’ family, and Ebby Halliday.

The prosecution, obviously, will not be prepared for this. They’ll ask for a continuance. During the break, you unleash your pig-blood-fueled clone army and take over the city. Earlier than you’d planned, yes, but smart businessmen know how to adjust.

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