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Peanut Corporation of America Defendant Changing Plea on Criminal Charges

A change-of-plea hearing will be held today at 4 p.m. EDT for Samuel Lightsey, the former Peanut Corporation of America plant manager in Blakely, GA. Notice of the hearing, being held at the C.B. King U.S. Courthouse in Albany, GA, was filed Tuesday by the court.

Indicted with three other former PCA executives in February 2013, Lightsey previously pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on bail to assist in his own defense. The court’s notice for today’s hearing does not say whether the change of plea will involve all the charges or whether it involves a plea agreement with government prosecutors.

Lightsey is charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, interstate shipments fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice

Prior to today’s change-of-plea hearing, Lightsey was scheduled for a jury trial with the three other executives from the now-defunct company. The others charged are Stewart Parnell, former chief executive; Michael Parnell, former vice president and peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, the company’s former quality control manager.

The four were charged after a four-year FBI investigation following the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 700 people and killed nine. The pathogen was sourced back to the peanut butters and paste produced by the Lynchburg, VA-based PCA at processing plants in Blakely, GA, and Plainview, TX. Government attorneys believe the executives knew that the product they shipped was contaminated.

Among the four defendants, Lightsey has raised the fewest pre-trial issues for the court to decide in the criminal proceeding that has been officially designated as “complex.” His attorney, however, did delay the trial because of a scheduling conflict involving his defense of a murder suspect in an Oklahoma trial.

Daniel Kilgore, PCA’s operations manager at Blakely from 2002-2008, pleaded guilty at the time the others were indicted. His sentencing has been held off until the other cases are completed.

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