Thomas Ledford, the attorney for Mary Wilkerson, carries a box out of the C.B. King Federal Courthouse Thursday morning following an initial appearance and arraignment.
ALBANY, Ga. — All four defendants indicted in connection with a Blakely peanut processing facility that prosecutors contend sickened hundreds and killed nine people by spreading salmonella bacteria entered not guilty pleas before a U.S. magistrate on Thursday.
Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, Samuel Lightsey and Mary Wilkerson each entered the pleas before Magistrate Thomas Langstaff in response to a 76-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury. Thursday’s hearing was the group’s initial appearance before a judge in the case.
Each of the four was released on an unsecured bond and ordered to surrender any passports. Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), and Michael Parnell were released on $100,000 bonds. Lightsey was released on a $50,000 bond, and Wilkerson was released on a $25,000 bond.
Prosecutors said if the defendants were convicted on all counts and the maximum sentences were imposed, Stewart Parnell could face 754 years in prison and a $17 million fine; Michael Parnell could receive up to 437 years in prison and a $10.7 million fine; Lightsey could face 368 years in prison and a $9.5 million fine, and Wilkerson could receive up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
According to the indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office contends that the four were vital components to a conspiracy that involved shipping salmonella-tainted peanut butter and peanut butter paste to vendors across the country.
The four are indicted on charges ranging from mail and wire fraud to obstruction of justice.