The Final Docket Call for the second criminal trial of Paul Kruse, the retired Blue Bell Creameries president, is set for March 31 in Austin’s Western District Court.
Federal Judge Robert Pitman signed an order that requires the 68-year-old Kruse to be present for the proceeding along with his defense attorneys and the government prosecutors. Under the order, Pitman will hear all pending pre-trial motions at the March 31 hearing.
It will be the final meeting before jury selection begins on April 10. Then the second jury trial of Kruse will begin. Government prosecutors last August came perilously close to losing the first criminal trial when 10 out of 12 jurors favored Kruse’s acquittal. The two jurors who did not go along made it a mistrial, giving government prosecutors a second chance.
That’s why a second Texas jury in April will get the opportunity to decide if Kruse is guilty or innocent of fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from the former Blue Bell executive’s actions during a 2015 outbreak of Listeria infections and deaths traced to the company’s ice cream products.
The Brenham, TX, resident is accused of one count of conspiracy and five counts of fraud for those actions he took during the 2015 listeriosis outbreak when he was president of Blue Bell Creameries.
Kruse issued the first recall in the company’s century-long history and suspended all production for several weeks. In the four-state outbreak, there were three deaths among 10 illnesses. All 10 patients were hospitalized. Those illnesses and deaths, however, occurred before Blue Bell knew of the outbreak.
At this point, there does not appear to be any pe-trial motions pending. That could be because issues were settled prior to the first trial. At that time one fraud count was removed at the government’s request.
A federal Grand Jury indicted Kruse in 2020 after a five-year investigation.
The Austin-based federal Western District Court for Texas found the United States v. Kruse is “a complex criminal case.”
As a corporate entity, Blue Bell pleaded guilty in a related case in 2020 to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The company agreed to pay criminal penalties totaling $17.5 million and $2,1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations regarding ice cream products manufactured under unsanitary conditions and sold to facilities, including four federal facilities including the military. At that time the total $19.35 million in fines, forfeiture, and civil settlement payments was the second-largest amount ever paid in resolving a food safety matter.
Kruse is the only individual facing criminal charges linked to the 2015 outbreak.
Blue Bell Creameries, founded in 1907 in Brenham, TX, today produces Blue Bell ice cream, an iconic Texan brand.
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