After the jury verdicts came in for the Peanut Corporation of American criminal trial two months ago, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the trial in Albany, GA, showed how “any individual or company that puts the health of consumers at risk by criminally selling tainted food will be caught, prosecuted, and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” But getting to the part where they hold the defendants — those who went to trial and those who entered into plea bargains with the government — is taking longer than expected. And, since most of the action since the trial has proceeded in secret, the public has been left in the dark about what’s going on. Many court documents since the jury verdicts came down on Sept. 19 have been sealed. These include a half-dozen court orders issued by U.S. District Court Judge W. Louise Sands, along with a slew of motions and documents that have been going back and forth among the attorneys and the court. Sands has also presided over at least two closed evidentiary hearings, one on Oct. 23 and the other on Nov. 12. Both of the hearings were held inside the judge’s chambers. The subject matter for the closed hearings isn’t known, nor is whether Sands made any decisions based on what he heard. What is known is that the defendants have requested acquittals from the judge on the charges for which the jury found them guilty, with backup requests for new trials. A request for a new trial filed jointly by brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell raises questions about whether one or more jurors searched the Internet to find out more about the Salmonella outbreak that was often mentioned during the trial. The government prosecution team is working to protect the jury verdicts. Stewart Parnell, who owned PCA, his brother, the peanut broker who did deals involving the company and Mary Wilkerson, quality-assurance manager for the PCA peanut processing plant at Blakely, GA, were found guilty by jury verdicts after the trial. Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey, the operations manager and plant manager, respectively, at the Blakely, GA, plant, testified at the trial for the government after reaching plea agreements with the prosecution. No sentencing date has yet been scheduled for any of the defendants. There is no indication in court documents that any Pre-sentence Investigative Reports (PSIRs) have been completed or filed with the court. However, those, too, are usually filed under seal. Both the PSIRs and federal sentencing guidelines will come into play whenever sentencing does occur. The jury convicted 60-year-old Stewart Parnell of all but one charge against him, including multiple counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, the sale of misbranded and adulterated food and obstruction of justice. Parnell faces up to two to three decades in federal prison. Michael Parnell, 55, was convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and the sale of misbranded food. Wilkerson was convicted of one of the two charges of obstruction of justice filed against her. Government attorneys are staying very public with their arguments, knocking down any lessening of the jury verdicts. They’ve gone on record opposing any judgment of acquittal, dismissal or new trial for the Parnells. Just as they did earlier with Wilkerson, they’ve argued that the evidence in the case is sufficient to support the guilty verdicts. In a brief addressed specifically at Stewart Parnell, the prosecution team stated: “The Government’s evidence need not exclude every hypothesis of innocence or be inconsistent with every conclusion except guilt.” It states that Stewart Parnell’s “protestations notwithstanding, the evidence against him at trial was overwhelming.” Most of the evidence the prosecution put on at trial, states the team, was “largely uncontested and uncontroverted.” “The Government established unequivocally at trial that Defendant Stewart Parnell engaged in fraud, conspired to commit fraud, and obstructed an agency (FDA) proceeding,” prosecutors argue. They also document evidence that Parnell was involved in a conspiracy and point to the falsified certificates of analysis (COAs) that were “used to fool PCA customers about microbiological testing results.” The 22-page summary of the most damaging evidence the jury heard about how Parnell ran PCA includes a recap of some of the most troubling emails. When told that peanut meal needed to fill an order was “covered in dust and rat crap,” Parnell replied with an order to, “Clean ‘em all up and ship them … .” In their arguments, government prosecutors also claim Parnell had “the requisite mental states for the crimes,” stating that he knowingly participated in the scheme of making material misrepresentations of PCA products for financial gain. Prosecutors also defended their references in closing arguments about food safety and one specific statement about the defendants, stating they “served up Salmonella to the people and they ate it.” Prosecutors say their remarks were a straightforward, fair characterization of the evidence. Defense attorneys have filed motions stating the government’s closing arguments to the jury were improper. None of the defendants was ever charged with responsibility for any specific illness or for any of the nine deaths in the 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 700 people.