After just five days of trial testimony, the United States v Paul Kruse is now in the hands of a Texas jury.
Trial testimony in the federal court of the Western District Court in Austin, TX, moved much faster than predicted before the trial began with jury selection on Aug. 1.
The Austin American-Statesman Wednesday reported the prosecution moved on to closing arguments. The court says the jury will resume its deliberations today, meaning it could all be wrapped up inside of two weeks. Jurors were warned about a possible four-week trial when they were selected.
Kruse, 67, is the retired president of the iconic Blue Bell Creameries. He is being tried on federal felony charges of conspiracy and fraud for suppressing some information about a 2015 listeriosis outbreak. Ten people were sickened and three died.
The 10 confirmed patients were from four states – Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3) were infected and required hospitalization.
During a crisis of more than 60 days in 2015, Kruse ultimately recalled all Blue Bell products and closed its production facilities in Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
But Kruse did not act fast enough for government prosecutors who said disclosures of the listeriosis problem were withheld from customers and the public for too long.
Through “retrospective review,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found isolates collected from Blue Bell ice cream that matched illnesses with onset dates from 2010 to 2014.
This historic Pulsenet data for DNA “fingerprints.” including three previous deaths in Kansas where listeriosis was a factor, all occurred before Blue Bell knew of the outbreak in early 2015.
Andy Kollman, Blue Bell’s quality control manager during the period before 2015, testified about elevated bacteria counts the company was experiencing. “We’ve got to take care of this problem, or we are going to get ourselves into trouble,” he wrote his bosses in a 2014 email.
Kollman also told the jury that one ice cream sample was shipped that later did return a positive test result for Listeria. He testified as a government witness with an agreement from the Department of Justice not to prosecute him.
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