COLUMBUS, NE (AP)--A man who had federal charges of lying to the government against him dropped says he now can resume his life.

Brent Wolke told the Columbus Telegram that his life had been on hold since he was indicted Dec. 16, 1998.

"It was like I was frozen in time," Wolke said. "It is hard to make plans. It makes you appreciate how much you look forward to having the normal problems of everyday life."

Wolke was plant manager at the Hudson Foods plant, in Columbus, in August, 1997, when a recall of ground beef, possibly tainted with a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria grew to 25 million pounds. It became the nation's largest meat recall.

Prosecutors alleged Wolke lied and conspired to lie to government investigators to limit the scope of the recall.

But last week, the judge hearing the case, in Lincoln, dismissed the charges against Wolke for lack of evidence.

And on Dec. 10, the jury acquitted Hudson Foods, based in Rogers, AR, and since sold to Springdale, AR-based Tyson Foods, Inc., and its former director of quality control, Michael Gregory.

IBP, Inc., purchased the plant after the recall, and hired Wolke as the plant manager. Wolke returned to work Dec. 6 after spending several weeks in Lincoln, at the trial.

Wolke said support from IBP, family, friends and the community helped him through the past two and a half years.

"I was extremely blessed to have IBP continue to support me and allow me to continue to do my job," Wolke said. "That probably did as much to help me stay sane. I was able to occupy myself and my time to continue to do the job the best I could."

Wolke said that during the trial he and his wife, Karen, had offers from many people to help watch their four children, Lindsay, 12, Grant, 9, Sara, 4, and Luke, 3.

People brought food to the house, sent letters and called with messages of support.

Enduring a federal trial educated him, Wolke said.

"I had no idea of the intricacies of how well the judicial system works," he said. "In some ways, it was an enjoyable thing to be involved with, to see what our forefathers developed and to see it work at its best.

"When you live for two and a half years with rumors and misinformation in the press, there is finally a chance when you go into that room, and it is put aside," Wolke said. "Nothing matters but the facts."

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