Appellate judges won’t release Wilkerson while awaiting appeal

Appellate judges won’t release Wilkerson while awaiting appeal

The extended visiting hours for Memorial Day weekend at Federal Correction Institution (FCI) Marianna probably won’t be much consolidation for 43-year-old Mary Wilkerson, who was denied in her second request for release on bail.

She remains incarcerated at the western Florida panhandle federal prison. It’s about an hour from Wilkerson’s home in South Georgia.

Circuit Judges Stanley Marcus and Charles R. Wilson denied Wilkerson’s motion one day after government prosecutors registered their opposition to her second motion for release on bone pending appeal.

Wilkerson and co-defendants Stewart Parnell and Michael Parnell were convicted “for various crimes following a seven-week jury trial,” according to the prosecution’s opposition documents.

PCA logo“The offense conduct resulted in a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella poisoning in late 2008 and early 2009 that sickened hundreds (and likely thousands) of people and prompted a large recall of food products,” documents filed with the court said. “As relevant here, Wilkerson was convicted on one count of obstructing justice and was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment.”

The three defendants are currently appealing their convictions and sentences in the 11th  Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which is based in Atlanta. All the written arguments have been submitted and the parties are waiting to see whether the court will hear oral arguments.

The three defendants worked for the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which before the outbreak operated facilities in Virginia, Georgia and Texas.

Wilkerson, a married mother with two sons aged 12 and 17, was initially hired as a secretary-receptionist at PCA’s peanut processing plant in Blakely, GA. The government agrees she is neither a flight risk nor danger to anyone, but opposed her release on bond because they say her appeal does not raise “a substantial question.”

If her appeal is not successful, it means Wilkerson has served about one-third of her sentence. Her release date is March 10, 2020. The government says a successful appeal requires a “substantial question” that is not frivolous and it must be a “close question” that could be answered either way.

The government says none of the claims made by Wilkerson’s appeal have merit. To her repeated claims about being purposely drowned in documents by the prosecution, the government says “Wilkerson’s own email communications established the falsity of her statement to an FDA investigator denying knowledge of additional positive salmonella results on PCA products…”

PCA owner and chief executive, Stewart Parnell, was convicted on 67 federal charges, including conspiring to commit instate-shipment, wire fraud, and conspiring to ship adulterated and misbranded foods in interstate commerce with intent to defraud. He received a sentence of 28 years and was denied release on bail pending appeal.

His peanut broker brother, Michael Parnell, was convicted on 31 counts. He worked with PCA through his P.P. Sales peanut brokerage and was also convicted on fraud, conspiracy and shipment of misbranded foods in interstate commerce with intent to defraud. He was sentenced to 20 years and release on bail pending appeal was denied.

Stewart Parnell is incarcerated at FCI Estill in South Carolina, while Michael Parnell is housed at FCI Milan, near Detroit.

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