The trial of former Georgia peanut plant owner Stewart Parnell and three of his employees for selling tainted peanut butter linked to nine deaths will be delayed until July, a federal judge in Georgia ruled last week.
The trial on 76 criminal charges, including fraud and selling adulterated food, had been set for Feb. 10, in Albany, Ga. But U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands agreed to a delay because a defense attorney had another trial at the same time.
The 2008-09 nationwide outbreak sickened more than 700 people in 46 states. Three deaths occurred in Minnesota, where health investigators first linked the salmonella strain to Parnell’s Peanut Corp. of America, which formerly had plants in Georgia and Texas.
Parnell and the others have pleaded not guilty. In court filings, Parnell blamed his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A neuropsychologist would testify that Parnell is “easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli,” thus impairing his judgment.
Prosecutors have opposed such testimony, and the judge hasn’t decided whether to allow it.
The government’s case relies partly on company e-mails. In a 2006 e-mail exchange recently filed in the case, Parnell confronted employees about a 5,000-pound salmonella-tainted shipment sent to a customer.
An employee e-mailed back: “I am the first to admit that our situation here is not very conducive to sanitary operations, but that was a crap shoot we lost on.”