Week three coverage of the PCA Salmonella trial - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Week three coverage of the PCA Salmonella trial

The Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA The Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA
ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Prosecutors and the defense have spent a good portion of the trial questioning former PCA employee Samuel Lightsey. In May, he pleaded guilty to seven counts, including mail and wire fraud and introducing adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce.

  • Tuesday August 19:
2:00 p.m. Court adjourned for the day.  After the last break, Tom Ledford, Mary Wilkerson's lawyer, continued the video tour of PCA Blakely. He observes that the plant looked to be in clean condition, despite being in the middle of a federal investigation.

Lightsey testifies that Wilkerson helped tremendously in the recall process. He and Wilkerson were the last two employees to walk out of PCA Blakely when all products were recalled, and the company filed for bankruptcy.

Ledford asks Lightsey why Jeff McFay's name kept showing up on PCA documents after his employment had ended. Ledford says it proves that just because names are on documents doesn't mean they are responsible for the content. 

Lightsey testifies that he took Mary Wilkerson out of her role as QA manager around December 1st, 2008. Ledford says that Wilkerson was helpful to both him and FDA investigators in her remainder of the time at PCA Blakely.


12:00 p.m.  Defense attorney Tom  Bondurant picked back up and showed results from two other independent audits. PCA passed both of them as well. He says PCA had a service contract with Michael Parnell's company and that his company, PP sales, bought the peanuts and paid for COA.

Bondurant went into Samuel Lightsey's plea agreement in great detail. He asked him the process of making the deal and what he had to do to receive a favorable punishment from the government. The agreement stated that he just help substantially with the investigation and prosecution of others. Bondurant wants the jury to realize that he has an interest in making statements to the government that will help in incarcerating the three defendants.

In his agreement, Samuel Lightsey's proposed jail time went from over 30 years to no more than six. In his agreement it says he can get no jail time if he substantially helps in the prosecution of others.

Next up, Michael Parnell's lawyer, Ed Tolley, started off asking about Kellogg's deal. He says that Kellogg's controlled the turnaround and shipping demands for the peanut paste. The salmonella investigation began after salmonella was traced back to king but peanut butter, a product Mike Parnell had nothing to do with. Tolley says Kellogg's bought paste from three different companies and mixed all the paste together. When investigators took samples, no peanut paste tested positive for salmonella and no salmonella was found in the Mexican paste.

PCA had a "continuing pure food guarantee" with Mike Parnell and PP sales. The agreement said all the food would be safe and none would be adulterated or mid branded. PCA also had a country of origins guarantee. they guarantee that all their peanuts will be from US fields. The first paste load left PCA in mid 2007 and the last load was sent on January 7th, 2009. Tolley says that "Kellogg's pulled all the strings on paste products."

Michael Parnell also didn't attend the PCA corporate meetings. Tolley is making him look like a victim. He finished fairly quickly.

Tom Ledford, attorney for Mary Wilkerson, is up now. He is showing a 54 minute video tour of the plant, and Samuel Lightsey is narrating. The video was taken after a search warrant by the FDA criminology department.


10:38 a.m.  The Lawyer for Stewart Parnell is done with cross examination. Edward Tolley, for Mike Parnell, is up now.

10:00 a.m. Before the court took a recess, lawyers for Stewart Parnell start the cross examination. Tom Bondurant is showing the same emails the government showed and says the government showed them out of context. One email shows Parnell responding, "Let me know so I can tell Nadi the truth."

Bondurant is also questioning Samuel Lightsey about his responsibilities at PCA. Lightsey says Parnell gave him full authority to run the plant and spending abilities up to $5,000. It's a point Bondurant brought up in opening statements--  Parnell hired people to run his plants and they're the ones responsible for the day to day activities that resulted in this problem.

Defense is also attacking the government's point about Mexican peanut paste being used in Kellogg's food products. Bondurant points out that Mexico is the largest importer of US peanuts, and that Cubero, the company PCA brought from, exports a large number of American peanuts. Bondurant wants the jury to realize that the peanut paste very likely contained American peanuts, which would fit in Kellogg's specifications.

Bondurant shows three independent audit results. PCA received superior ratings on two separate American Institute of Baking audits and one Cook and Thurber audit in early 2008. This also satisfied Kellogg's specifications.

The three positive tests that PCA received while Lightsey was there were retested 60 times. All of those retests came back negative. Former JLA president testified earlier that test results could be wrong and the error rate could be somewhere around 9%. Emails show that JLA misreported three other tests (and later correctly reported them) to PCA.

Bondurant is asking Lightsey about Kellogg's COAs. He says anyone at Kellogg's with knowledge of Julian dates (the system used to date products for testing and shipping) should realize that COAs were falsified. He wants to show that they are not necessarily the victim and Kellogg's had knowledge of what was going on. Bondurant showed three examples that Kellogg's should have noticed.

9:00 a.m.   Cross examination Samuel Lightsey started this morning. He said on the stand that PCA received superior ratings on three independent audits in early 2008.When product tested positive for salmonella, 60 retests were done on that product. PCA followed protocol and all retests came back negative, he said.

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