Prosecution Must Show Parnell Had Knowledge of Crimes Charged

Patrick H. Hearn, one of the trial attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, has turned in the government’s view of the importance of knowledge in the crimes with which Stewart Parnell is charged.

“Knowledge is an element of the crimes that defendant Stewart Parnell has been charged with in the indictment,” Hearn wrote in a short statement prosecutors have been allowed to file because they claimed one of Parnell’s defense attorneys had misstated the law.

Parnell’s defense team claims the government is just confused.

Hearn’s statement filed April 28 amounts to the last word in proceedings that have taken about two months to lay the groundwork so that U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands can make a pre-trial ruling about whether an expert witness can testify for Parnell.

Parnell and three other former executives of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America are scheduled for a jury trial later this summer on 76 federal felony counts stemming from the 2008-2009 nationwide Salmonella outbreak that killed nine and sickened at least 700 people.

Defense attorneys for Parnell want to call as an expert witness at trial the neuropsychologist who claims Parnell suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Government attorneys say that Dr. Joseph C. Conley, Jr., does not merit that expert designation. It is up to Sands to make the call.

In his filing on the legal debate, Hearn points out that jury instructions dictated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit require proving that the defendant had knowledge for several of the most important crimes charged. These include conspiracy, interstate shipments fraud, wire fraud, adulteration and misbranding fraud, and obstruction of justice.

In addition to Hearn, DOJ trial attorney Mary M. Englehart and assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia K. Alan Dasher are prosecuting the former peanut company executives.

Food Safety News