The final two sentences have been handed down in the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) criminal case. Former plant managers Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore were sentenced on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, to three and six years in federal prison, respectively, by U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands. Both Lightsey and Kilgore became government witnesses in the PCA case, exchanging their testimony during the 2014 trial for consideration in sentencing. Lightsey, who was the last PCA plant manager at Blakely, GA, got the lighter three-year sentence. His plea bargain with the government capped any prison sentence at six years. He will remain free until the Bureau of Prisons makes an assignment to a specific facility. Kilgore, who was switched to operations manager when Lightsey took over the plant, got the six-year prison term. His deal contained a cap on prison time of 12 years. After serving their time, Lightsey and Kilgore will both be on supervised release for three years. In total, the two men spent about 10 days on the stand testifying at the 35-day trial for the other three PCA defendants (Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson). Their testimony helped government prosecutors get many details entered as evidence. Along with the prison terms handed out to the other three on Sept. 21, the five executives whom the government targeted for criminal prosecution in the PCA case will serve a total of 62 years for knowingly allowing peanut products contaminated with Salmonella to be shipped and sold in interstate commerce. The heaviest sentence was given to Stewart Parnell, the former PCA chief executive officer. He was taken into federal custody immediately after being sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. His peanut broker broker, Michael Parnell, was sentenced to 20 years. The Parnell brothers, along with Mary Wilkerson, former PCA quality assurance manager at the Blakely plant, were convicted by a jury. Wilkerson was sentenced to five years in a federal woman’s prison after being found guilty of obstruction of justice. Defense attorneys for the Parnells and Wilkerson have filed notices of appeal with the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. The notices indicated that all three defendants plan to appeal their judgments and the judge’s denial of their requests to remain free while pursuing the appeals. The Salmonella outbreak involving PCA products was one of the most deadly in modern U.S. history, with three deaths reported in Minnesota, two in Ohio, two in Virginia, and one each in both Idaho and North Carolina. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 714 confirmed cases in 46 states, but the unreported cases likely topped 22,000.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)