Three Peanut Corporation of America officials sentenced Monday

Former Peanut Corporation of America CEO Stewart Parnell
Former Peanut Corporation of America CEO Stewart Parnell

Information from Food Safety News

Stewart Parnell, a second-generation chief executive of a family-owned peanut enterprise who once served on the national Peanut Standards Board, was sentenced to a 28-year prison term on Monday for a series of criminal charges that amounted to his knowing that the peanut products he was shipping were contaminated with potentially deadly Salmonella.

His brother, Michael Parnell, whom the court viewed as a manager in the criminal enterprise, was sentenced to 20 years, and a former quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, was sentenced to 5 years in a federal women’s prison.

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands also ordered Stewart and Michael Parnell detained by U.S. Marshals at the close of Monday’s proceedings because he said they are flight risks.

The Parnells were taken into custody following the sentences and were not allowed bond, while Wilkerson was allowed to go home after posting bond. They plan to appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands
U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands said that, in the end, the case was not about murder, even though nine people died from the poisoned peanuts. He said that the acts involved were driven by the desire for profit and to protect profits despite known risks, something which he noted is “commonly and accurately referred to as greed.”

Sands has presided over the criminal case since February 2013, when Stewart Parnell and four other defendants were named in a 76-count felony indictment involving charges of conspiracy, fraud, and shipping food that was contaminated and misbranded.

On Monday, Sands presided over the end of the case, at least from the trial court’s perspective. Sands allowed family and friends of the Parnells and Wilkerson to give testimony as character witnesses, and time was also set aside for victims of the outbreak to make statements.

Former plant operations manager Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey, the former Blakely plant manager, are scheduled to be sentenced on October 1. They will receive lighter prison sentences as a result of testifying against the Parnells on behalf of the prosecution.

To read much more about the sentencing of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson, visit

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