The government and the four accused executives associated with the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America have agreed that the case they are involved in is complex and the ticking countdown of the speedy trial rule has been halted.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia has approved a motion offered by the four defendants to designate the case as complex and to exclude all time after March 4, 2013 from the Speedy Trial rule. The order was signed after defendants posted bail in the case.
In the motion accepted by the court, it found that the “ends of justice” would be best served by designating the criminal case as complex due to the nature of the prosecution, the charges and regulations that apply, the nationwide presence of witnesses and evidence, and voluminous amount of discovery.
The decisions will be on the 76-count indictment against Stewart Parnell, 58, of Lynchburg, VA; Michael Parnell, 54, of Midlothian, VA; Samuel Lightsey, 48, of Blakeley, GA and Mary Wilkerson, 39, of Edison, GA –all former PCA executives.
Now bankrupt, PCA had peanut operations in Virginia, Georgia and Texas before its peanut butter and peanut paste was named as the source of the 2008-09 nationwide Salmonella outbreak that sickened 700 and killed nine.
U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands signed an order continuing the case to the next regularly scheduled term of the Court, a move that he said was in the best interest of the public and the defendants’ speedy trial rights. The order does not provide for a specific trial date.
Sands was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate later that same year.
The four former PCA executives have pleaded “not guilty” on all the counts brought against them by federal prosecutors assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The four are free on bonds of $100,000 each for the two Parnell borthers, $50,000 for Lightsey and $25,000 for Wilkerson.
The four executives are now represented by a total of seven federal defense attorneys. Lawyers Edward Scott Austin, Thomas Jack Bondurant Jr. and Kenneth B. Hodges, III are representing Stewart Parnell, PCA’s former chief executive officer. Austin and Bondurant are both from the same Roanoke, VA law firm. Hodges is from Ashe, Rafuse & Hill LLP in Atlanta.
Athens, GA attorney Edward D. Tolley is representing Michael Parnell, the VP of sales and peanut broker for PCA. James W. Partkman, III and William Calvin White, II, both from Parkman and White in Birmingham, AL are representing Lightsey, who was the manger of PCA’s Blakeley, GA peanut processing plant.
And, finally, Albany, GA attorney Thomas G. Ledford is representing Wilkerson, the quality assurance manager at the Blakely plant.
Kenneth Alan Dasher, assistant U.S. District Attorney for the Central District of Georgia , is the lead prosecutor for the government. Assisting are Mary M. Englehart and Patrirk H. Hearn, U.S. Justice Department attorneys in Washington, D.C..
Government attorneys have already been successful in persuading 44-year old Daniel Kilgore to plead guilty to a similar list of charges. Except for the charges, the U.S. District Court file for Kilgore remains sealed.
The acceptance of a designation as a “complex case” means both sides probably think they will benefit from taking more time in the case. In the meantime the defendants also stay out of jail.
Not until the Feb. 21 unsealing of a federal grand jury indictment did the public, including the families of the victims of the 2008-09 outbreak, know that PCA executives were going to face criminal charges for their actions.© Food Safety News