On Oct. 1, a federal judge sentenced two former officials of the disgraced Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) to serve prison time.
But it could have been worse for Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore, who both cut plea deals and served as witnesses in the 2014 trial of their former boss, PCA owner Stewart Parnell.
The defunct PCA was tied to a 2009 outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium that sickened 714 persons in 46 states and left nine dead.
Lightsey, a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely, Georgia plant, received a sentence of 36 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. W. Louis Sands, the federal judge who oversaw prosecutions against PCA executives, also sentenced PCA’s former operations manager Kilgore to serve 72 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
The “sentences are a just result," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Division, in a statement. “They reflect the roles that the defendants played in these terrible acts, their acceptance of responsibility for those roles, and their willingness to assist the government, albeit after the fact, in ensuring that all of those who engaged in criminal activity were held accountable."
Last week, Sands sentenced Parnell to 28 years in prison in what marked the harshest sentence ever in a food-safety prosecution. A federal jury last September convicted PCA’s former owner of 67 criminal counts.
Prosecutors introduced evidence to show peanut executives mislead customers about the presence of Salmonella, fabricating documents that declared the products were free of pathogens when they hadn’t been tested or results revealed the food was tainted. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also said the PCA executives weren’t truthful with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials who had visited the company’s plant to investigate the outbreak.