The U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Intermediate District of Georgia recommends dismissing motions to release the Stewart brothers and Michael Parnell from federal custody. Judge Thomas Q. Langstaff quietly filed rulings on April 7 after taking both cases under advisement last October.
The Parnells, convicted in a 2014 jury trial of food safety crimes linked to the deadly 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak associated with the Peanut Corporation of America, are now nearly out of options to early release.
In the two decisions, of approximately 40 pages each, the judge arrives at very similar conclusions. For motion Stewart Parnell 2255, he draws this conclusion:
“The petitioner has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. CONSEQUENTLY, it is recommended that Petitioner Stewart Parnell’s motion to vacate, vacate, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 USC § 2255 be REFUSE.”
And his conclusion for Michael Parnell’s Motion 2255:
“The petitioner has failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. CONSEQUENTLY, it is recommended that Petitioner Michael Parnell’s motion to vacate, vacate, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 USC § 2255 be REFUSE.”
The magistrate’s decision says the two detainees have 14 days to file written objections. When goals are set, they will be decided by Louis Sands, the trial judge. “The recommendation may be reviewed by the district judge if there is manifest error,” according to the magistrate’s ruling.
If the brothers do not file objections within the time limits, the right of appeal is removed. “In the absence of a proper objection, however, the court may review on appeal for manifest error if necessary in the interests of justice.”
The essential: The judge “finds no substantial proof of the denial of a constitutional right”.
Further, it “is recommended that the court deny a certificate of appeal in its final order. If the applicant files an objection to this recommendation, he may include therein the arguments he wishes to make regarding a certificate of appeal.
Magistrate Langstaff ruled that the motions filed by the Parnells were sufficient to require public hearings, which took place in May 2021. The brothers were remanded by federal marshals to the federal courthouse in Albany, Georgia, where the jury trial took place.
The Parnell brothers were found guilty by a Mid-District jury in 2014 of multiple federal felonies indicted after a nearly five-year investigation into the 2008-2009 nationwide Salmonella outbreak involving the Peanut Corporation peanut processing plant of America (PCA) in Blakely, Georgia. At the time of the outbreak, Stewart Parnell was the managing director of PCA and Michael was a peanut broker.
Stewart was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison and Michel to 20 years. These were the toughest criminal convictions ever handed down for food safety violations. Stewart’s release date, according to the Bureau of Prisons, is July 26, 2039. Michael is due out September 30, 2032.
Stewart is currently being held at Hazelton Federal Prison in West Virginia, and Michael is being held at Fort Dix, NJ.
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