Attorneys representing the former Peanut Corp. of America owner and employees charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice and other counts involving the distribution of adulterated or misbranded food that allegedly led to a deadly Salmonella outbreak, had their opportunity on August 19, 2014, to cross-examine the company’s Blakely, Georgia, plant manager, Samuel Lightsey, who has been testifying as a government witness. United States v. Parnell, No. 13-cr-12 (U.S. Dist. Ct., M.D. Ga., Albany Div., filed February 15, 2013).
Among other matters, the attorneys reportedly focused on the plea deal Lightsey struck with prosecutors; he was facing more than 30 years in prison, but could serve no more than six or go free if he substantially helps prosecute others. They also sought to show that (i) former owner Stewart Parnell was concerned about safety, (ii) Lightsey was responsible for plant safety, (iii) extensive retesting of samples positive for Salmonella came back negative, and (iv) peanut paste shipped to Kellogg met its specifications and accompanying documents would have clearly shown to the recipient, given the dates used, that they had been falsified. Stewart Parnell’s attorney apparently sought to place blame on Michael Parnell, whose company purchased the peanut paste sold to Kellogg. The contract between the brothers’ companies evidently said that the buyer assumes all the risk. See WALB News and Associated Press, August 19, 2014.