Defense: Salmonella defendant was peanut customer

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — The attorney for one of three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut plant says his client was a customer, not a co-conspirator who plotted to ship tainted food.

Attorney Edward Tolley told jurors Wednesday during an opening statement in U.S. District Court that his client, peanut broker Michael Parnell, bought peanut paste for Kellogg's from Peanut Corporation of America. But he says Parnell was never an employee of the company owned by his brother, Stewart Parnell.

Prosecutors say the Parnell brothers conspired to ship contaminated peanuts and hide positive salmonella tests from customers. Mary Wilkerson, the Georgia plant's quality assurance manager, also faces charges. Her lawyer opted not to make an opening statement.

Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday, more than five weeks after the trial began.