Salmonella outbreak trial coverage from Albany, GA - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Salmonella outbreak trial coverage from Albany, GA

Mary Wilkerson leaves court with her lawyer. Mary Wilkerson leaves court with her lawyer.
Michael Parnell walks out of court Michael Parnell walks out of court
Stewart Parnell leaves the courtroom. Stewart Parnell leaves the courtroom.
Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA
ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The trial of three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to a peanut plant in Georgia continued Monday.

Former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson were indicted in February 2013, charged with shipping salmonella tainted peanuts and covering up lab results showing the nuts tested positive for the bacteria.

Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak that happened between 2008 and 2009.

Trial coverage from the Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA:

  • Friday August 15, 2014

The trial is in a break for about 15 minutes.

Prosecutors showed PCA peanut plant pictures to Samuel Lightsey. He is describing each of them and telling the jury that they all show dirty equipment and improper cleaning techniques.

In Lightsey's time, there were three positive salmonella tests. He testifies that he never brought the issue up in a corporate meeting with Stewart Parnell. He also didn't bring up the testing and shipping protocol for Kellogg's. He said he "Thought it was common knowledge."

  • Wednesday, August 13
2:20 p.m. Prosecution is going through each count of the indictment and presenting evidence to Samuel Lightsey. One big revelation is that the government has listed Mary Wilkerson as an unindicted co-conspirator.

The issue arose when her lawyer thought a document didn't apply to her two obstruction charges in the case. Mary Wilkerson was telling Samuel Lightsey why PCA requested two audits from the American Institute of Baking. She said that it gave PCA a better chance of passing one of the audits on separate parts of the plant. Some customers require the the results before doing business with PCA.

Government responded by saying she was an un-indicted co-conspirator. Judge Sands is holding the counsels after court to discuss whether or not the government has presented evidence that she is a co-conspirator.

Government also announced that they have four witnesses who they wish to call in the morning out of order because they are out of state. Prosecution says they should be quick testimonies, and they will suspend Mr. Lightsey' testimony until after these 4 are done. They will then pick back up with direct examination of Samuel Lightsey.

Prosecutors believe their four testimonies will only last about 2 hours before Lightsey is called back sometime Thursday.

12:00 p.m. Prosecutors showed some more examples where PCA told customers that positive tests were "inconclusive." Defense lawyers are visibly irritated with the direct examination length and manner. They are voicing that to the court. Prosecutors going on 22 hours of direct examination.

One email does show Kerry Foods told PCA that they "are unwilling to take a risk on using any peanut material from PCA." Kerry wanted a response on why there was a positive salmonella test. Kerry Emails say, "So no substantive response. No investigation. No root-cause. No apology."

Government is now going back to documents showing that PCA had a system to send products to Kellogg's with false test results. Prosecutors touched on this issue a lot Tuesday, and are going back to it now.

10:10 a.m. Prosecution looks like they could be here another day with direct examination of former plant manager Samuel Lightsey.They are going through an email chain after the second salmonella test was found while Samuel Lightsey worked at PCA. He sent an email to Stewart Parnell hoping to get assistance in finding the issue, but Parnell just complained that there was "a huge time lapse" and it "costed lots of money".

Another email shows Lightsey telling his bosses that they had a confirmed salmonella test. Unindicted co-conspirator David Voth responded saying he told customers that tests were "inconclusive" and that retests would be done. Lightsey testified that the email was incorrect and misleading because the test was confirmed, not inconclusive.

  • Tuesday, August 12
2:00 p.m. Court has adjourned. Prosecutors showed a few emails that show Stewart Parnell telling Samuel Lightsey to ship the products even with the positive results. Other emails show Mary Wilkerson explaining to Lightsey why they use Deibel for retest. She says they use deibel after receiving a positive test from JLA and then use whichever result is more favorable.

Other emails prove there was communication between everyone when positive tests occurred. After 18 hours, and the prosecution doesn't seem that close to being done

12:50 p.m.  The prosecutor is going through email communications between Stewart Parnell and Samuel Lightsey. There isn't a great deal of substance other than the fact that Samuel Lightsey did confirm the positive tests with Stewart Parnell.

11:50 a.m. The prosecution is going through tons of documents that show the process of how PCA pulled numerous samples from products and used the analysis of them for later products.

For example, lot 8214 was sent with results from samples pulled 12 days earlier that "said" the products were ok. However, the samples pulled from 8214 and sent for later use came back bad for various reasons. Samuel Lightsey says he didn't know of anyone that notified Kellogg's that a product they received four days earlier was actually tainted and that the COA they received was wrong and falsified based off a previous product.

Lightsey says "it was a mistake" to not notify Kellogg's. Prosecutor went through one example that took about an hour and a half to explain. The ultimate point was that PCA had a long, thought out system for testing and shipping that deceived Kellogg's.

Mexican peanut paste was also added to the paste sent to Kellogg's despite their request that only domestic peanuts be used in its products. Lightsey says no one at Kellogg's ever knew.

10:00 a.m. Court is in first break. The prosecution is still going over similar documents as yesterday. Samuel Lightsey is confirming them before any questioning begins.

  • Monday, August 11
2:00 p.m. Court adjourns for the day. Judge Sands just told jurors that they will have Friday, August 22nd off and court will not be in session that day.
 The prosecution went over several lots of peanut paste that were sent to Kellogg's without test results.

Prosecution asked Samuel Lightsey about this last week and he testified that it happened. Today, he just confirmed that with documents going back to 2004.

Lightsey said each time PCA sent the products without any knowledge of the food's real analysis.

PCA only had the capability to hold 20,000 pounds of peanut paste. Kellogg's wanted shipments of 40,000 pounds so it was produced and put directly on the tanker.

Lightsey's testimony proves why this will be a long trial- prosecutors have a lot of evidence and documents to go through with witnesses to prove to jurors that PCA recklessly sent untested products to Kellogg's and other customers with no regard for consumers.

12:03 p.m. Samuel Lightsey continues to explain production and shipping practices at PCA to the jury. Prosecutors are being thorough and asking him to confirm every document.

Lightsey's testimony is proof of why this case will be so long. Government has a lot of evidence and documents to go through with each witness. 

11:35 a.m. Prosecution is getting confirmation from as Lightsey as he goes through documents proving that PCA shipped products before tests came back. These documents are from earlier years to show that it was an old problem. He's been through a number of examples, between seven and 10.

10:00 a.m. Court is in its first break. Prosecution is showing Samuel Lightsey pictures and documents from PCA.

MORE: Week 1 of Salmonella outbreak trial coverage

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