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ConAgra criminal hearing delayed for another two months

More than 150 people known to be seeking restitution in the case of the USA v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co. LCC are going to have to wait an extra 48 days to find out if they get anything.

peterpan_406x250The likely final hearing in the criminal case stemming from Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters spreading Salmonella Tennessee across 44 states a decade ago was scheduled for Oct. 27. The U.S. Department of Justice ’s Victim Notification System notified victims of that date in early September.

Twice now, however, that date has been pushed back and the court now has it scheduled for Dec. 13. The reason for the additional delays in the already long delayed case is not entirely known. The date was changed twice and pushed out to December after a revised draft pre-sentence investigative report was filed with the court.

Pre-sentence investigative reports are sealed, and not open to public review.

Attorneys for the government and ConAgra have had an agreement on resolving the case since it was filed on May 20, 2015. ConAgra, part of Chicago-based ConAgra Inc., has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of allowing a contaminated product to reach the marketplace. It has further agreed to pay fines and forfeitures totaling $11 million.

The Dec. 13 hearing before U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands will likely see the judge accept the plea and impose the agreed upon sentence. Sands is also scheduled to rule on restitution, the issue that has caused most of the delay in the proceedings.

The government was ordered to do national advertising to let people who were sickened by the outbreak that occurred between Oct. 5, 2006, and Feb. 17, 2007 to file for restitution. And the victims were given time to document any financial, physical and/or emotional damages they suffered.

The ConAgra peanut processing plant is in Sylvester, GA, where at the time of the outbreak the company made the two brands of peanut butter. At the time of the outbreak, ConAgra has since acknowledged, it was dealing with a leaky roof, faulty peanut roaster and other problems that combined to allow the contamination to occur and reach the market.

The plea agreement does not include any probation for ConAgra, out of  recognition for the company getting on top of the problems and safely operating the plant safely during the decade since the outbreak.

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