The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has approved a motion giving more time for the Peanut Corporation of America criminal defendants to file petitions for rehearing and rehearing en banc.
The new deadline for the filings is March 13.
The circuit court on Jan. 23 upheld all of the district court’s decisions that were under appeal by the defendants, who were challenging both their convictions and sentences.
Attorneys for former PCA executive Stewart Parnell, his peanut broker brother Michael Parnell, and one-time PCA quality control manager Mary Wilkerson sought more time to file petitions because of their “pressing commitments and deadlines in other litigated cases.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) did not contest the requests for more time.
Petitions for rehearing, either by another three-judge panel or the entire court (en banc) likely will be the final shot the attorneys have at getting their clients out of jail.
A three-judge circuit panel issued a 21-page decision on Jan. 23 that denied all of the trio’s appeals. They are serving a total of 53-years in federal prisons for their roles in the 2008-09 nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to PCA’s peanut butter. The outbreak sickened thousands and caused at least nine deaths.
Federal prosecutors for the Middle District of Georgia filed a 76-count indictment in February 2013. A jury convicted the three defendants in 2014. Sentencing was delayed for one year while the district court investigated jury misconduct allegations.
Stewart and Michael Parnell were, respectively sentenced to 28 and 20 years in federal prison after each was convicted of multiple felonies. Wilkerson was convicted on a single count of obstruction of justice and sentenced to five years.
Attorney Justin M. Lugar of the Roanoke, VA-based law firm of Gentry Locke represents Stewart Parnell. Joseph R. Pope of Richmond, VA-based William Mullen is Michael Parnell’s attorney. And, Albany, GA attorney Thomas G. Ledford is Wilkerson’s attorney.
Together they are defending against the most severe penalties ever imposed in a food safety case in the United States.
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