Deliberations begin in federal salmonella trial - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Deliberations begin in federal salmonella trial

Tom Ledford with Mary Wilkerson Tom Ledford with Mary Wilkerson
Edward Tollley, left, with Michael Parnell Edward Tollley, left, with Michael Parnell
Stewart Parnell Stewart Parnell
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

A jury has begun deliberating in the trial of three people charged with covering up contamination at a Georgia peanut plant linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak.

The jury decided to deliberate until 5:00 p.m. Friday and return Thursday, Sept. 18th. Judge Louis Sands is expected to be at a conference until that day.

Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak that happened five years ago.

The attorney for former Peanut Corporation of American (PCA) owner Stewart Parnell said his client was a scapegoat, and told jurors during closing arguments that Parnell and his family ate his plant's products, so he didn't think they were dangerous. The lawyer also claimed the government didn't want to go after large corporations, and instead came after a small business owner.

The lawyer for Stewart's brother Michael Parnell said his client had no knowledge of the testing procedures for Kellogg's, which was one of PCA's buyers. He contended that Kellogg's acted negligently and was complicit in a scheme to sell products that tested positive for salmonella, and therefore wasn't defrauded during the outbreak.

He said Michael Parnell had no personal relationship with his brother and was not part of any conspiracy to defraud their customers.

Finally, attorney Tom Ledford told jurors his client, Mary Wilkerson, was continually helpful to federal investigators during their probe of the plant and told the truth to get to the bottom of the problem. Wilkerson faces two charges of obstruction.

The Parnell brothers are charged with mail and wire fraud, introducing adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce, and conspiracy. However, they are not charged with actually causing the sicknesses or deaths connected to the outbreak.

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 five years ago.

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