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Appellants in PCA criminal case given more time to file briefs

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has set Oct. 5, 2016, as the deadline for appellants Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson, to file briefs. Originally they were due on June 20.

judicial_406x250The trio is appealing their convictions and sentences in the Peanut Corporation of America criminal case that went to a jury trial in July 2014 and to sentencing in September 2015.

Stewart Parnell, 62, was the owner and chief executive of the peanut processing company, which once had operations in three states. He is serving a 28-year sentence at a federal prison in South Carolina. His brother Michael Parnell, 57, a peanut broker, is serving 20 years at a federal prison in Michigan.

Both of the Parnells were convicted on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy, including wire fraud and mail fraud, along with knowingly allowing adulterated and misbranded food across state lines to reach the market.

Mary Wilkerson, 42, a quality control manager at the PCA plant in Blakely, GA, is serving a five-year federal prison term in Florida. She was convicted on one count of obstruction of justice.

Two other PCA managers, Stewart Lightsey, 51, and Daniel Kilgore, 47, pleaded guilty to certain of the charges under agreements with prosecutors. Lightsey is serving a three-year prison sentence in Arkansas. Kilgore is serving six years in Louisiana. Both agreed not to appeal their convictions or sentences.

One issue that delayed the deadline for the appellants’ main briefs was a dispute over whether the defense attorneys had to pay for copies of the many exhibits used at trial. Copies of the exhibits in the cases have been available since May 16 from the clerk of the U.S. District Court. A complete set of the exhibits totals 3,478 pages and costs $1,739 at 50 cents per page.

The Albany federal court left it to the 11th Circuit to decide whether the defense attorneys who obtained the copies should be reimbursed. Wilkerson is represented by a court-appointed attorney and is likely seeking reimbursement.

The 11th Circuit previously upheld the District Court’s ruling denying the appellants’ motion to release them from prison while their appeal is being heard.

The five managers and executives associated with PCA were indicted in February 2013 after a four-year criminal investigation into the 2008-09 multi-state Salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of people and killed nine. Peanut butter and peanut paste made at PCA’s Georgia facility was found to be the source of the outbreak.

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