AP reports today that Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson entered pleas of not guilty in Georgia federal court. Among the various charges are conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead. A fifth defendant, Daniel Kilgore, another plant manager, has already plead guilty.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Langstaff set bond at $100,000 each for the Parnell brothers, $50,000 for Lightsey and $25,000 for Wilkerson. The defendants and their family members, who attended Thursday’s hearing, did not speak to reporters.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Dasher told the court that Stewart Parnell faces a maximum 754 years in prison and $17 million in fines if convicted. His brother Michael faces a maximum 437 years and $10 million.
Over 700 people were sickened and nine died as a result of the 2009 Salmonella outbreak and massive recall.