A federal court in Georgia presiding over the criminal case filed against the former owner of the Peanut Corp. of America, implicated in a nationwide Salmonella outbreak in 2009, has denied Steward Parnell’s motion to seal an exhibit that the government intends to introduce as Rule 404(b) evidence— that evidence pertaining to crimes, wrongs or other acts. United States v. Parnell, No. 13-12 (U.S. Dist. Ct., M.D. Ga., Albany Div., order entered June 13, 2014). Details about the criminal charges appear in Issue 472 of this Update.
Parnell claimed that the evidence, an email, is “highly prejudicial” and would taint the jury pool. The government argued that “the exhibit is a judicial document subject to the common law right of access.” The court agreed with the government, because the document was discovery material that had been filed in connection with Parnell’s motion in limine, seeking to keep it from being introduced at trial. It also found that Parnell had “failed to show good cause for sealing it.” The email, dated June 30, 2008, contains Parnell’s response to a request from a Peanut Corp. employee as to how to handle company membership dues that are evidently based on sales. His response was “lie about the sales if it saves us money.”