Mary Wilkerson, the former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) quality assurance manager whom a jury found had lied to federal food safety investigators, surrendered Tuesday to a federal correctional institution in Marianna, FL. The 42-year-old mother of two from Edison, GA, has begun a five-year prison term at FCI Marianna, which the U.S. Bureau of Prisons says is a medium-security prison for men, with an adjacent minimum-security satellite camp for women. FCI Marianna is located less than 80 miles away from Wilkerson’s home in Calhoun County, GA. She joined about 1,350 inmates at the federal prison, including 207 women at the adjacent facility. On Oct. 22, a U.S. appeals court denied Wilkerson’s motion to remain free pending the outcome of the challenge her attorney is making to both her conviction for obstruction of justice and her prison sentence. Those appeals will be heard by the court’s Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. Wilkerson was sentenced Sept. 21 by U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands to the five-year prison term, to be followed by two years of supervised probation. He allowed Wilkerson to remain free until she was ordered to report to an assigned facility. Wilkerson was among five defendants indicted in February 2013 following a four-year federal investigation into PCA’s role in the 2008-09 multi-state Salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands and killed nine people. Beginning as a receptionist at PCA’s peanut processing plant at Blakely, GA, Wilkerson ended up as the company’s manager for quality assurance. A jury in September 2014 found her guilty of one count of obstruction of justice for misleading federal investigators about positive tests for Salmonella done for the company prior to the outbreak. Wilkerson was acquitted on a second count of obstruction. She becomes the first of the five defendants in the PCA criminal case to be assigned a permanent address for the term of her imprisonment. PCA’s former chief executive officer, Stewart Parnell, and his peanut broker brother, Michael Parnell, have both been in federal custody since they were sentenced, also on Sept. 21. However, the Parnell brothers continue to be held by the U.S. Marshals Service and have not yet been assigned to a correctional facility. After they were each convicted on multiple counts involving fraud and conspiracy, Sands sentenced Stewart Parnell to 28 years in prison and Michael Parnell to 20 years in prison. They are also appealing their convictions and sentences. Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey, former PCA managers at the Blakely plant, were sentenced to 12 and 6 years in prison, respectively, and are free pending an order to report to a specific correctional facility. The two men testified on behalf of the prosecution after reaching plea deals with the government.
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