Daniel Kilgore, the former Peanut Corporation of America operations manager at Blakely, GA, will likely be the government’s star witness next February when the criminal trial of peanut executives gets under way. Kilgore is now the man in the shadows, where he has waited since entering into a plea agreement with the government for the complex criminal conspiracy case. He waits while – through their attorneys – the others who have been charged raise issues that have helped push the trial into next year. Shortly before prosecutors went public with the PCA criminal case, Kilgore entered into a plea agreement with the government to get a favorable sentencing deal in exchange for his cooperation. Because the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia sealed the documents about his deal while the others were charged, the details did not get much attention. Those documents have since been made public and show what Kilgore is getting for his cooperation. He was charged, and, in the deal, pleads guilty to all 29 federal felony counts against him. Like the other PCA executives, Kilgore was charged with multiple counts of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to introduce adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce. He pleaded guilty on charges that officially carry up to 304 years of prison time and fines of more than $7 million. The plea agreement means that Kilgore’s sentence will probably be less than 12 years under federal rules of criminal procedure that outline how such deals are done. And sentencing does not come until after he is done cooperating with the prosecution at trial, and the court may consider “any reliable information, including hearsay.” In the meantime, Kilgore is free on a $25,000 unsecured bond, meaning that, as long as he follows the court rules, he does not have to put up any actual cash. Conditions for his release are fairly minimal. He had to surrender his passport and must report any contact he has with law enforcement such as arrests or traffic tickets. From June 2002 to May 2008, Kilgore was in charge of PCA’s operations at Blakely, GA. He reported directly to Stewart Parnell, the company’s former chief executive, who was based in Lynchburg, VA. His testimony in the coming jury trial promises to be captivating. Parnell, his brother (and peanut broker) Michael Parnell, along with Blakely plant executives Samuel Lightsey and Mary Wilkerson, are together charged with 76 federal felony counts associated with shipments of peanut butter and peanut paste. In 2008 and 2009, those PCA products were contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium and were responsible for a nationwide outbreak that killed nine and sickened at least 700 people.