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Proposed Sentencing “Unprecedented” for Food Industry Executive

(July 23, 2015) The U.S. Probation Office, which prepares pre-sentencing reports to help guide federal judges, has recommended a life sentence for former Peanut Corporation of America executive Stewart Parnell, according to documents filed in United States District Court by prosecutors. In an article published by The New York Times on July 23, 2015, both prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case have characterized such a recommendation as “unprecedented.”

Parnell, 61, is scheduled to be sentenced by a federal judge in Albany, Georgia on September 21, 2015. According to the article, “Federal judges are required to consider recommendations based on complex sentencing guidelines, but they are not bound by them.”

Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr., E. Scott Austin, and Justin M. Lugar, Gentry Locke attorneys who have worked to defend Parnell, have objected to the sentencing guideline calculation at recent hearings and in a brief filed on July 22, 2015. According to Bondurant, “The government has failed to present credible, reliable, and trustworthy evidence to support the calculation it offers, and we have asked the Court to disregard this proposed calculation entirely.”  Lugar adds, “The guideline calculation is literally off the chart, based in large part on the government’s attempts to include over $144 million in losses claimed by former customers.  These losses, however, do not withstand scrutiny and we’ve asked the Court to reject them.” Austin highlights that, “This case does not lend itself to traditional measures of punishment as evidenced by the indirect nature of the evidence presented by the government as to the number of alleged victims.”

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