ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A federal judge sentenced two plant managers connected in the trial of a nationwide salmonella outbreak to prison Thursday.
Samuel Lightsey was sentenced to 36 months in prison with three years of supervised release. Daniel Kilgore was sentenced to 72 months in prison with three years of supervised release. Both men were released on bond until a designated time for them to report to prison.
Lightsey was in charge of day-to-day operations as plant manager at the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia. Kilgore held the same position before the company hired Lightsey in 2008.
Samuel Lightsey agreed to testify as part of a plea deal. Kilgore pleaded guilty to federal indictments of mail and wire fraud in Feb. 2013, and also testified in the trial.
Judge Louis Sands sentenced the plant managers after a very emotional morning, as family members and friends testified on behalf of the defendants begging for leniency on Kilgore and Lightsey.
Ultimately Judge Sands granted that, their sentences were actually half of what the government asked the Judge to cap the sentences at. Former plant managers Sammy Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore's sentencing represents the end of an investigation that started with a federal raid in early 2009.
"Sammy took the right road, tried to work it out, tried to help the government, to get to the other people and to help the victims and work in the case," said his attorney Jim Parkman.
Lightsey and four other executives were named in a 76-count indictment in 2013 that alleged PCA falsified lab tests and knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted products. The former plant manager pleaded guilty shortly after that indictment and agreed to testify at the trial.
In the hearing, prosecutors and the government both recognized the substantial help this testimony proved to be in the verdict.
"Nobody's happy to go to prison. But you're elated that the judge did do what was the right thing to do in the case with regards to Mr. Lightsey and second of all, he wanted to get it over with," said Lightsey.
The three year sentence is far shorter than the 28 years former owner Stewart Parnell received, the 20-year sentence Michael Parnell received, and the five year sentence that former QA manager Mary Wilkerson received.
Daniel Kilgore will spend six years behind bars, also far shorter than the maximum request of 12 years. His attorneys sent a statement saying: "We respect the sentence and the entire process. Mr. Kilgore and his family are glad to have this part of the process behind them."
For victims and families on both sides of this case, the book is finally closed. The sentencing guidelines prepared by the probation office recommended more than 20 year sentences for Lightsey and Kilgore.
Judge Sands agreed to the plea deals though and threw those recommendations out. Both men are out on bond until they report to federal prison.
Salmonella-tainted products were shipped from the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely beginning in 2008. In the months that followed, the CDC confirmed nine deaths connected to those products.
In September, Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) CEO Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, and quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in the salmonella outbreak in 2008 and 2009.
More than 700 people were sickened in the outbreak and nine people died, according to the CDC, though it was not certain that each death was due to salmonella poisoning.
The outbreak prompted the largest food recall in U.S. history and cost customers of PCA $144 million.