Gentry Locke Lawyers Featured in National Publications in Major Criminal Trial and Sentencing (United States v. Stewart Parnell)
Since 2008, Gentry Locke attorneys have been at the center of the nation’s first, and largest, food safety criminal case (United States v. Stewart Parnell). From Congressional Hearings in 2009 to Indictment in 2013, Gentry Locke’s Criminal and Government Investigations (“CGI”) group, anchored by E. Scott Austin, Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr., and Justin M. Lugar, have led Stewart Parnell’s defense. Leading up to trial, our CGI group poured through over 5 million documents and prepared a vigorous and thorough defense culminating in a two-month-long trial in the Middle District of Georgia in the summer of 2014, resulting in a partial acquittal.
At sentencing, Stewart Parnell faced a possible 803 years of imprisonment and ultimately received a sentence of 28 years. News coverage of the sentencing nationwide included reports from The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, CNN, and major wire service outlets.
Gentry Locke attorneys Austin, Bondurant, and Lugar headed Parnell’s defense team. They were quoted and provided perspective on the sentencing.
- Chicago Tribune: “Former peanut executive gets 28 years in prison for salmonella outbreak”:
Tom Bondurant, one of Parnell’s defense attorneys, said 28 years prison would amount to a life sentence for his client. He plans to appeal the conviction and sentence. “If you compare it with other food-safety criminal cases, it’s tremendously out of line,” Bondurant said.
- Law 360: “Ex-Peanut Corp. CEO Gets 28 Years Over Salmonella Outbreak” by Sindhu Sundar:
“Speaking for Stewart, his family and his whole legal team, this was a disappointment,” Lugar said. “It wasn’t unexpected, the sentencing guidelines called for more than 800 years, so we knew there was a high likelihood of an effective life sentence, but we believe it’s an excessive sentence.” Lugar said there were enough “evidentiary issues,” including that jurors got wind of the deaths linked to the outbreak, even though the deaths were not mentioned at trial. “The real, clear problem with the verdict, in our view, is that the jurors were biased and considered evidence that was not part of the trial,” he said.
- Wall Street Journal: “Ex-Peanut Executive Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison for Salmonella Coverup” by Jesse Newman:
“Obviously, we are very disappointed in the 28 years,” said Tom Bondurant, Mr. Parnell’s lead attorney, adding that the prison sentence is “extremely harsh, and we believe we have viable grounds for appeal.”
- CNN.com: “28 years for salmonella: Peanut exec gets groundbreaking sentence” by Moni Basu:
His lawyer, Scott Austin, said Parnell was devastated by the 28-year sentence. Parnell has maintained all along that his company engaged in commercial fraud but that he was not aware of it.
- Politico.com Morning Agriculture (MA) Report: “Parnell to Appeal on Grounds Jury was Compromised:
“We are going to appeal both the verdict and the sentence in Stewart Parnell’s case,” Scott Austin, an attorney at Gentry Locke, told MA. “The principal issue for appeal is whether the jurors improperly considered consumer deaths in a case where the only charges were conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce.”
- Bloomberg BNA: “Food Execs on High Alert After Sentencing in Peanut Case” by Catherine Boudreau:
Justin Lugar, an attorney at Gentry Locke who was part of the team defending Stewart Parnell, said there is criticism of the Justice Department’s focus on individual accountability. “It seems that if you’re a big company with lots of money, you will just get a slap on wrist,” Lugar told Bloomberg BNA, citing the case against ConAgra that resulted in a settlement. “If you’re a small producer or family business who is at mercy of larger food companies with certain demands, you could face serious consequences.”
Learn more about how the Department of Justice is taking action regarding individual accountability for corporate wrongdoing in Justin Lugar’s recent article, The DOJ Wants Heads on Sticks (Officially): What You Need to Know About the Yates Memo.