Mary Wilkerson, who was first hired in 2002 to answer the phones and then worked her way up in March 2008 to being manager of quality assurance at Peanut Corporation of America’s Blakely, GA processing plant, was the only company employee to go to trial alongside the Parnell brothers.
A federal jury in Albany, GA Sept. 19 found Wilkerson guilty of one of two counts of obstruction of justice upon which she was charged. Going through a trial with Stewart and Michael Parnell, two brothers who, respectively, owned and brokered the peanut business that employed Wilkerson, she was in one sense the only defendant that cast anything approaching a sympathetic profile.
Second-generation owners of peanut industry businesses, the two Parnell brothers both received guilty verdicts on multiple federal felony counts that could send them to prison for two to three decades. A team of some of the South’s best federal defense attorneys represent each Parnell brother; Stewart’s lawyers are from Atlanta and Roanoke, VA, and Michael’s from Athens, GA.
Only a single court-appointed local defense attorney from Albany, GA represents Wilkerson.
While she emerged from the near-eight-week-jury trial better off than the Parnells, a guilty verdict for a single count of federal felony obstruction of justice can result in a five year prison term.
No surprise, then, that Wilkerson wants the court to set aside the guilty verdict against her. On her behalf, her attorney in October filed arguments that the trial evidence was ‘not sufficient to support a guilty finding in her case.’
Because that request was made, government attorneys have for the first time collected into one narrative the case against Wilkerson. They did not want to lose their one conviction of a PCA top command and they outline all that was on the record that should send her for sentencing along with the Parnell brothers.
“Her protestations notwithstanding,” wrote U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Trial Attorney Mary M. Englehart, “The evidence against Defendant Mary Wilkerson at trial was considerable.”
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