Daniel W. Kilgore, 52, will be home for Christmas. He might even be there for Thanksgiving. Kilgore is already out of federal prison. He’s at a half-way house run by the Residential Re-entry Management (RRM) program in Atlanta.

More than a decade ago, Kilgore found himself at the center of the most significant food safety criminal case in U.S. history.

Kilgore was making his home in Blakely, GA, in 2002 when he took what he thought would be an opportunity as plant manager for Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). After a deadly multistate Salmonella outbreak in late 2008 was linked to the plant, federal prosecutors came calling on Kilgore.

His name alone ended up on one of the federal indictments and Kilgore cut a deal in 2013. He entered a guilty plea for 29 federal felonies in exchange for his testimony and having his prison sentence cut in half to six years, a reduction from a possible 12 years.

At any time now and definitely by no later than Dec. 19, 2020, Kilgore will be a free man. Only the Parnell brothers, Steward and Michael, will remain in prison from the PCA criminal prosecutions once Kilgore walks.

Kilgore, who did most of his time at the minimum-security federal prison at Oakdale, LA, was a critical prosecution asset when the case went to a jury trial in 2014. As with Kilgore, prosecutors flipped one-time PCA operations manager Samuel Lightsey, who also agreed to plead guilty.

Kilgore and Lightsey then helped prosecutors get jury convictions for the Parnell brothers and Mary Wilkerson, who was quality control manager for PCA.

Alan Dasher, assistant U.S. Attorney, turned to “Danny Kilgore” early in his opening remarks to the jury as he tried to explain what was going on at PCA Blakely. Speaking to the jury, Dasher said:

“Let’s look at this e-mail. It is a little difficult to read on your screen. At the bottom you see Stewart Parnell sending an e-mail to Danny Kilgore who was the plant manager at the time of the Blakely PCA plant.

“I thought the results would be here tomorrow.” He’s referring to test results on their products. Mr. Kilgore responds “that salmonella only result for today’s production, which is required to fill the order, will be available mid-afternoon Friday. If it ships on Friday by common carrier, the best case will be delivered sometime on Tuesday.”

“To which Mr. Parnell responds, “Shit. Just ship it. I cannot afford to lose another customer. Call me about Nestle.” And then Mr. Kilgore forwards that e-mail to Joe Sams, who was the shipping manager, saying, “please, see Stu’s response.”

“Just ship it.”

“Danny Kilgore. I mentioned his name in the first e-mail that you saw. Mr. Kilgore was the operations manager, plant manager, from 2002 through May of 2008.

“Mr. Kilgore’s name would be on this indictment except for the fact that before this case was indicted Mr. Kilgore plead guilty to the charges that you see before you.

“Mr. Kilgore was involved in the implementation of many of the fraudulent schemes that you will hear about over the course of this trial. He has pled guilty, accepted responsibility for his criminal conduct, and he
will testify before you about his criminal conduct, about his activities with PCA, and about the activities of the defendants who are on trial today.”

Kilgore’s release date has been moved up from Jan. 30, 2021, to Dec. 19, 2020.

His guilty pleas were for 29 federal felonies, including conspiracy and wire fraud, interstate shipments fraud, the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce. He was sentenced to 72 months with sentences on all counts running concurrently. Kilgore will be on supervised release for three years after he is freed.

Stewart Parnell, co-owner of PCA at the time it was found responsible for the Salmonella outbreak, is not scheduled for release until July 26, 2039.  He is in federal custody at Hazelton, SC.

Michael Parnell, who was a peanut broker for PCA, is being held at Fort Dix, NJ, with a release date of Sept. 30, 2032. Stewart is 66, and Michael is 61.

A federal magistrate is scheduled to hear arguments on a motion to vacate Stewart Parnell’s conviction and sentence on Feb. 24, 2021, on grounds he was denied, effective counsel. Two of Georgia’s most accomplished appellate attorneys, Savannah’s Amy Lee Copeland and Atlanta’s Amy Levin Weil, will represent Parnell in the motion hearing.

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