The PCA executives responsible for knowingly shipping Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter were found guilty of a number of felony charges including conspiracy. In this case, the tainted peanut butter was responsible or nine deaths and more than 700 illnesses.
The disregard for human health was pretty blatant in the charges that were brought against them.
In the end, was it worth it for them?
Wall Street Journal
Peanut Executive Found Guilty in Salmonella Trial
Conviction Seen as Landmark in Criminal Food-Safety Prosecutions
Updated Sept. 19, 2014 6:12 p.m. ET
A federal jury on Friday convicted the former head of a peanut-processing company of conspiracy and other charges in connection with a deadly salmonella outbreak, one of the first felony convictions of a corporate executive in a U.S. food-safety case.
Stewart Parnell, former owner of Peanut Corp. of America, was found guilty on numerous counts, including wire fraud and obstruction of justice, after a seven-week trial in Albany, Ga. The verdict could result in a lengthy prison sentence and fines.
Mr. Parnell, 60 years old, and other former employees were indicted last year for allegedly masterminding a multiyear conspiracy to conceal that many of Peanut Corp.'s products were contaminated with salmonella. Nine people died and more than 700 others were sickened in 2008-09 after eating peanut butter or other products made at the company's plant in rural Georgia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mr. Parnell's lead attorney, Tom Bondurant, said his client would appeal the verdict. "We respect the process the jury went through, but obviously thought the decision was wrong," Mr. Bondurant said.
The conviction represents one of the first times that a corporate executive has been found guilty on criminal counts under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, legal experts said, and comes amid an intensified focus by federal prosecutors on food-safety cases. The Justice Department earlier this year brought charges against the owners of an Iowa egg company linked to a 2010 salmonella outbreak. Last year, the owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor charges related to a 2011 listeria outbreak.
"What this tells us is that U.S. attorneys are now more willing to charge people for food crimes than they have been in the past," said Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents victims of food-borne illnesses, including some in the Peanut Corp. case. "For companies, it argues for paying a lot more attention to food safety than you've had to in the past."
Mr. Parnell's brother, Michael Parnell, 55, a food broker who worked on Peanut Corp.'s behalf, also was convicted Friday on multiple charges. His attorney, Edward Tolley, said he would ask the judge to review the verdict and said his client likely would appeal it.
Mary Wilkerson, who was the quality assurance manager at Peanut Corp.'s plant in Blakely, Ga., was convicted Friday on one count of obstruction of justice. Her attorney couldn't be reached for comment. Two other former Peanut Corp. employees previously pleaded guilty to multiple charges in the case.
Prosecutors said Peanut Corp. defrauded customers, including several national food companies, by neglecting to notify them when laboratory tests revealed the presence of food-borne pathogens, including salmonella, in its shipped products. In some cases, prosecutors alleged, company officials fabricated lab results entirely, stating peanut products were safe for consumption even when tests showed otherwise, or when tests had never been conducted at all.
Peanut Corp. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection weeks after the outbreak began.