Two former officials of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) were sentenced to prison today in Albany, Georgia, just a week after PCA’s former president received a 28-year prison sentence, the largest criminal sentence ever given in a food safety case.
Samuel Lightsey, 50, of Blakely, Georgia, a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely plant, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands to serve three years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Daniel Kilgore, 46, also of Blakely, and a former operations manager at PCA’s Blakely plant, was sentenced to serve six years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Both Lightsey and Kilgore pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and the sale of misbranded and adulterated food.
Witnesses at trial
Both Lightsey and Kilgore served as witnesses in the 2014 trial of Stewart Parnell, 61, of Lynchburg, Virginia, the former owner and president of PCA; Michael Parnell, 56, of Midlothian, Virginia, Stewart Parnell’s brother, who worked at P.P. Sales and was a food broker who worked on behalf of PCA; and Mary Wilkerson, 41, of Edison, Georgia, who held various positions at PCA’s Blakely plant, including receptionist, office manager, and quality assurance manager.
The trial, which led to the convictions of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson, established that tainted food led to a salmonella outbreak in 2009 with more than 700 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in 46 states.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on epidemiological projections, that number translates to more than 22,000 total cases, including nine deaths. During the sentencing phase of the case, the court found that the evidence presented at trial linked PCA’s contaminated peanut products to the victims’ illnesses.
“Today’s sentences are a just result,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “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."