Government attorneys did not pull any punches when it came to hitting back at Mary Wilkerson and her court-appointed attorney on their latest defense motion to have her guilty verdict in the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) criminal case dismissed. They responded on deadline with the gloves off to keep her jury conviction for obstruction of justice intact. Wilkerson is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 21 in federal court in Albany, GA. documentsmainGovernment prosecutors stated that Wilkerson’s motion for dismissal, or in the alternative, a new trial with new discovery and an evidentiary hearing, was past all deadlines and offers no new evidence. It merely “reiterates many of the vague and baseless arguments she has repeated throughout her pre-trial and post-trial briefs (see Docs. 78, 84, 85, 98, 108, 109, 111, 116, 223, 306, 308, 325, 339, 350, 358, 367, 368, 369, 382, 387, and 396), every one of which this Court has already rejected. (See Doc. 94, 220, 232, 375, and 397).” U.S. Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch attorneys Patrick H. Hearn and Mary M. Englehart, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher, authored the government’s response. They are the same trio which obtained convictions of Wilkerson, Stewart Parnell, and Michael Parnell nearly a year ago after a seven-week jury trial. “Once again, the government notes—as it has on numerous occasions in the past year—Defendant Wilkerson still has not identified a single document, a single witness, nor a single bit of information that she either did not know about or could not use at trial. The reason is simple: she had everything she needed for trial, in plenty of time to use it. Nothing in her latest motion to dismiss suggests otherwise. Like the others before it, it should be rejected,” prosecutors stated. With no new evidence, they asserted that Wilkerson “instead makes disingenuous claims of prosecutorial misconduct as her basis to request.” They stated that Wilkerson’s claim of a so-called Brady violation during discovery over a “data dump” is without merit because the court has already ruled against her three times on the claim and duplicative motions on the same facts are improper. Wilkerson’s claims,” prosecutors wrote, “are based on conclusory, inaccurate, and fanciful statements without any basis in reality.” She is trying “at this late hour” to create new claims, which are “spurious and meritless,” in support of her motion, they stated, adding, “Despite the absurdity and falsity of these new arguments the government will respond to each one.”

Thomas Ledford
Thomas C. Ledford
They dismissed defense attorney Thomas C. Ledford’s claim of a government-media conspiracy by pointing out that he “failed to identify any information presented in the media that was not publicly available in the documents on the Court’s docket or from proceedings in the open court.” The prosecution said the claims of leaks to the media “are baseless and should therefore be denied.” Ledford also accused the government of acting unethically in filing its sentencing brief as a matter of public record. The government says there was no rules violation. “An evidentiary hearing on objections to the pre-sentence reports was held on July 1 and 2, 2015. At the conclusion of that hearing the Court instructed the parties to file briefs on the issues within fourteen days of the following Monday. The Court did not instruct the parties to file their briefs under seal. On July 20, 2015, the Court entered an order extending the deadline for filing the briefs. (Doc. 431). Again, there was no directive that the briefs be sealed. All parties filed their pleadings on July 22, 2015. It stands to reason that a pleading addressing issues raised in a public hearing would be filed as a public document,” prosecutors wrote. “The government, Defendant Stewart Parnell, and Defendant Michael Parnell all captioned their pleadings as ‘briefs’ and filed them as matters of public record. (Docs. 432, 433, 435). Only Defendant Wilkerson captioned her pleading as ‘objections,’ thereby triggering the automatic sealing of the document5. (Doc. 434). The government did not act improperly or unethically in the manner in which it filed its pleading,” they stated. Ledford also claimed that his client has the right for cross-examination purposes to the personal private medical records of the victims of the 2009 outbreak caused by peanut butters and paste from the Blakely, GA, processing plant where Wilkerson was in charge of quality control. “Defendant Wilkerson has no Constitutional right to cross-examine the victims. Victims who speak at sentencing are not government witnesses, but independent parties with a right to speak at sentencing. Victims exercising their rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (‘CVRA’), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3771, do so as independent parties to the litigation, standing separate from the prosecution. This is evident from the plain text of the statute and from case law,” the government responded. Ledford also floated a theory about how the government might have mixed up two peanut butter-related illness outbreaks that were about two years apart. “She attempts to support this far-fetched claim with myriad inaccurate and speculative statements. Although it is difficult to glean the essence of Defendant Wilkerson’s argument, she seems to suggest that the salmonella outbreak attributed to ConAgra, which began in 2006, could have caused the illnesses attributed to the PCA salmonella outbreak in late 2008 and 2009,” the prosecutors wrote. They went on to state, “Defendant Wilkerson’s argument stands in stark contrast to the evidence presented at trial, which proved that the strain of salmonella that caused the outbreak linked to PCA was a strain that the Centers for Disease Control (‘CDC’) had never before seen in their PulseNet database.”

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