Former Peanut Executive Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison

(Washington Post:  Published 09/21/2015, Dennis, Brady, Web)

Former peanut executive Stewart Parnell was sentenced Monday to 28 years in prison for his role in a nationwide salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds in 2008 and 2009.  The sentence marked the most severe punishment ever for a food-related crime. Prosecutors had sought life in prison for the 61-year-old executive, and the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands essentially could amount to that.  “These acts were driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks,” the judge said, according to the Associated Press. “This is commonly and accurately referred to as greed.”

Parnell, who was found guilty last year on more than 70 criminal charges, including knowingly shipping tainted food across state lines, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and wire fraud, never testified at his trial or when called to a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Parnell’s now-bankrupt company, based in Virginia but with a production plant in Georgia, once touted its “remarkable food-safety record.” But in reality its own internal tests turned up salmonella contamination a half-dozen times in 2007 and 2008, according to investigators. Parnell approved shipments despite such warnings.  Investigators documented a litany of unsanitary conditions at the plant, including mold, roaches, dirty equipment, holes big enough to allow rodents inside and a failure to separate raw and cooked products. They also unearthed e-mails that showed Parnell hastily approving shipments he knew might be contaminated.

The case is the latest and in a series of high-profile criminal prosecutions pursued by the federal government in recent years. The federal government in recent years also has prosecuted cases involving tainted eggs that sickened thousands of people and contaminated cantaloupes that led to 33 deaths. But no other executives have yet faced a sentence like the one Parnell received Monday.

“Americans should be able to trust that the food we buy for ourselves and our families is safe,” Stuart Delery, the Justice Department’s acting associate attorney general, said in a statement Monday. “The sentences handed down today to officials associated with the Peanut Corporation of America demonstrate the consequences for those whose criminal actions threaten that trust by introducing contaminated food into the marketplace.”

The lawyers at Liever, Hyman & Potter, P.C., are concerned for the safety of families in Reading, Berks County, PA, Pottsville, Schuylkill County, PA, and throughout Eastern and Central PA.  The lawyers there handle personal injury claims, including claims for injuries or death caused by unsafe or dangerous products.

From the desk of Adam K. Levin, Esquire.



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