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All Five PCA Defendants to Hear Outbreak Victims’ Testimony

All five defendants charged in the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) criminal indictments will be together next week in federal court in Albany, GA, to hear victim testimony.

According to newly filed court documents, attorneys for Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore, the two PCA managers who voluntarily pleaded guilty to some of the charges after entering into agreements with prosecutors, have agreed to a preliminary sentencing hearing timed to coincide with the victim testimony portion of the sentencing hearing for the three defendants convicted almost exactly one year ago in a jury trial.

Lightsey and Kilgore are scheduled to be sentenced separately on Oct. 1.

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The C.B. King federal courthouse in Albany, GA.

K. Alan Dasher, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, suggested the two defendants who turned into government witnesses attend the sentencing hearings that begin Monday for Stewart and Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson. That’s so victims of the 2008-09 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to PCA peanut butter and peanut paste will not have to make two trips to Albany to offer written statements or oral testimony as allowed under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA).

“These victims will be traveling to the hearings from various locations across the United States,” Dasher said. “It would be impractical for these victims to return to give the same statements a second time at … sentencing hearings on Oct. 1.”

Lightsey, the former manager of the PCA peanut processing plant at Blakely, GA, was originally charged in the same 76-count indictment that charged the Parnells and Wilkerson. He was charged with every count in the February 2013 indictment, but he reached an agreement with the government before trial in May 2014.

Under the deal, Lightsey agreed to plead guilty to seven counts and testify agains the other three named in the indictment when the case went to trial in July 2014. In exchange, the government dropped 69 other counts against Lightsey and agreed to cap his potential prison time at six years.

The former plant manager pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts and one count each of introduction of adulterated food in 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.

Kilgore, who managed operations at the Blakely plant, was originally charged in a 29-count solo indictment filed ahead of the charges against the other four defendants. He was the first to sign a plea agreement with the prosecution. Kilgore agreed to plead guilty to all counts in exchange for a promise from the U.S. Attorney to cap his potential prison time at 12 years.

Kilgore entered guilty pleas for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud, eight counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intend to defraud or mislead, six counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, eight counts of interstate shipments fraud, and five counts of wire fraud.

Together, Lightsey and Kilgore provided the government with about 10 days of critical trial testimony, helping prosecutors put much of the complex criminal case before the jury. Their plea agreements allow the prosecution to make their cooperation known to the judge for consideration at sentencing.

At trial, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official testified that more than 20,000 people might have been sickened by the tainted peanut butter. At the time, state and local health officials working with CDC confirmed 714 Salmonella T. infections in 46 states that matched the DNA fingerprint or pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). CDC also attributed nine deaths in five states to the outbreak. (The higher number is an estimate to include in official outbreak numbers those people who don’t go the doctor or don’t get tested.)

Several victims of the PCA Salmonella outbreak and/or their family members are expected to participate on Monday.

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