Government attorneys, led by K. Alan Dasher, assistant U.S. District attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, are opposing the request by brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell for separate criminal trials. The brothers are former Peanut Corporation of America executives, who, along with two other defendants, are scheduled to go on trial in February for a total of 76 federal felony counts, including conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, interstate shipments fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. The trial was originally set to begin in October, but was recently shifted to Feb. 10, 2014. But brothers Stewart, now-defunct PCA’s former chief executive, and Michael, the peanut broker, have asked the court for separate trials on the basis that their respective defenses are “antagonistic and mutually exclusive.” In an eight-page motion filed Monday, Dasher asked U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands to deny the request for separate trials without holding a hearing on the issue. “Defendants’ motion is wholly lacking of any explanation whatsoever as to the nature of their defenses, how those defenses are inconsistent, and how they are mutually exclusive,” Dasher wrote. “The motion (requesting separate trials) provides simply a conclusion with no factual basis. Instead, the Defendants propose to offer their facts at the hearing. “This proposal is unacceptable for two reasons,” the assistant U.S. district attorney continued. “First, the facts must be set forth in the motion in order to establish the need for a hearing ….” Dasher says the Stewarts are not entitled to a hearing based on a promise, adding that they “should not be permitted to hide the ball until the hearing, leaving the government and the Court guessing what the ball may be, and leaving the government totally defenseless when it finally gets hit with whatever the ball turns out to be. That is fundamentally unfair.” Dasher says the second reason the defendants’ proposal for separate trials is unacceptable is that they intend to “offer their facts in an in camera ex parte hearing.” He says they’ve offered no explanation for why such a closed hearing would be appropriate. In his motion, Dasher argues that the general rule is that defendants indicted together are tried together, and the U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed the joint trials. While the Stewarts wait for the judge’s decision, another defendant’s attorney already has trouble with the new trial date. Birmingham defense attorney James W. Parkman III, who represents Samuel Lightsey, has asked to have the Feb. 10 trial date reset to April 2014. Parkman says he scheduled in an Oklahoma murder trial that was rescheduled to February 2014 so as to not conflict with the original date for the PCA criminal trial. Mary Wilkerson, the fourth former PCA executive charged, has also filed a new motion regarding her problems accessing and organizing nearly three million documents the government has provided her with as part of its discovery obligations. Wilkerson, the former quality assurance manger for the PCA plant in Blakely, GA, faces just two counts of obstruction of justice, the lightest charges of the four defendants. Her latest so-called “Brady” motion asks the court for a hearing on the discovery issues. She wants the government to produce an index, list of exhibits, names of witnesses and a “reasonable search protocol.” Dasher has also filed a nine-page response to Wilkerson’s motions, including her “Jencks” motion calling for the government to produce witness statements. The government says such information is not required until after it conducts direct examination at trial. And it apparently has provided Wilkerson with “the plea agreement for a government witness who will testify in the case. Furthermore, the government will provide any ‘proffer letters’ provided to any government witness.” In addition to Dasher, the government’s trial team includes Patrick H. Hearn and Mary M. Englehart, both with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. The PCA criminal trial, expected to take six or seven weeks when it does begin, will be the capstone event of the deadly Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak of late 2008 and early 2009. The outbreak killed nine people and sickened about 700 others in the United States. It was linked to contaminated peanut butter and paste produced by PCA plants in Georgia and Texas. The poisoned peanut butter was so widespread that the outbreak led to one of the largest and most expensive ingredient recalls in U.S. history, involving nearly 4,000 products from hundreds of companies that bought from PCA.