The criminal trial of four former Peanut Corporation of America executives won’t begin until Feb. 10, 2014, according to the latest scheduling order signed by U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands. He signed the order after a telephonic status conference with all parties in the case.
Originally, the trial was to have started on Oct. 7, 2013. The new schedule calls for the government’s case to take four to five weeks, to be followed by about two weeks for the defense.
Venue for the trial will be the C.B. King United States Courthouse in Albany, GA. The trial should conclude on or about March 31, 2014, which would be about five years after contaminated peanut butter and paste from PCA plants in Georgia and Texas were linked to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium.
The outbreak sickened 700 and killed nine people, ending with one of the largest ingredient recalls in U.S. history, involving almost 4,000 products. The now-defunct PCA was headquartered in Lynchburg, VA.
Former PCA chief executive Stewart Parnell; the company’s peanut broker, Michael Parnell, who is Stewart Parnell’s brother; and former Blakely, GA, managers Samuel Lightsey and Mary Wilkerson are together charged with 76 federal felony counts, including fraud, conspiracy and the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead. All four have pleaded not guilty.
The four defendants are free until trial after posting bonds of $100,000 each for the Parnells, $50,000 for Lightsey and $25,000 for Wilkerson. If convicted on all charges brought, Stewart Parnell could be sentenced to 754 years in prison and $17 million in fines. Michael Parnell faces maximums of 437 years in prison and $10 million in fines.
Wilkerson, who faces the lightest charges of two counts of obstruction of justice, has filed several motions concerning the amount of paperwork the government has generated in the case. She has been given until August 31 to file preliminary motions addressing her need to analyze the estimated 3 million documents.
Sands has already received several important pre-trial motions, including one from the Parnell brothers, who want separate trials.© Food Safety News