ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The former Peanut Corporation of America owner and his brother face a long time behind bars
of knowingly shipping salmonella tainted products and covering up test results after the fact. The outbreak, which happened five years ago, sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths.
The families of Michael and Stewart Parnell were very emotional as they learned their fate. But so was one of the victim's sons, who says after five years, justice has been served.
A 7 week trial ends in guilty verdicts for nearly every count for Stewart Parnell and his brother, Michael Parnell.
"We absolutely respect the jury system. It's a hard job as a juror," said defense attorney, Tom Bondurant. "Obviously we're extremely disappointed. We think the outcome should have been just the opposite of what it was. We intend to go forward and fight the sentencing and fight this out on an appeal if necessary."
Stewart Parnell, the former Peanut Corporation of America owner was found guilty of conspiracy and dozens of other counts, including introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead and wire fraud.
His brother Michael, was also found guilty of conspiracy.
It took the jury just two days to return the verdict.
"I've been doing this for 35 years, I'm not surprised of anything the jury does," said Bondurant.
The quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson was found guilty on one count of obstruction.
The salmonella outbreak happened five years ago and was linked to their Blakely plant. Hundreds were sickened and nine people died, including 72 year old Shirley Mae Almer.
Her son, Jeff, was there to hear the verdict.
"It all just kind of became a blur after about after 10 or 12 of them were read guilty. All I could think about was my mom and how she struggled at the end of her life and the battle that she went through to beat cancer and then this was the culmination of the cause of her death. This was the resolution to that. And after five and a half years it was very hard to watch."
Almer says he's been waiting for this day for more than five years and finally feels some closure.
"This trial, the investigation, everything that's been going on for so long. I was just looking forward to the day it was done, whether there were guilty verdicts, whether there were not guilty verdicts, I wanted the day in court to happen. And for a jury to decide the fate and the evidence to be presented. That's what I wanted to see. So there's no happy. I'm relieved," said Almer.
Almer says while he feels like justice has been served, he also feels sympathetic for the other side.
"I'm also sympathetic, because I know on their side that their family is torn apart by this. And I don't wish that on anyone. I really don't. It's nothing but tragic on both sides, for both families," said Almer.U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the verdict in this case confirms the salmonella outbreak was caused by these individuals.
Stewart and Michael Parnell will be allowed to return to their home in Virginia until their sentencing, which has not been scheduled.
They could face about 30 years in jail.