Mary Wilkerson, the unlucky 45-year old former Peanut Corporation of America quality manager for control is getting out of the federal prison in Tallahassee, FL.
Wilkerson is serving five years for a jury conviction of obstruction of justice. She is not eligible for parole. Her release date is March 10, 2020.
But the federal Department of Justice has recently told victims of the multistate Salmonella outbreak and their families that Wilkerson will be leaving the Florida prison on Sept. 17, 2019, and transferred to a Macon, GA half-way house ran by Dismas Charities Inc.
The Macon half-way house is located less than 150 miles from Wilkerson’s home in Edison, GA. After release, she will remain under supervision for a time by the U.S. Probation Office in Albany, GA.
Wilkerson will be the second of the five PCA managers and executives who were either convicted by a jury or plead guilty to crimes related to the salmonella outbreak that sicked thousands and killed at least nine.
PCA’s former plant manager in Blakely, GA, Samuel Lightsey, served the shortest time and was released on Sept. 29, 2017. Lightsey cut a deal with the government that saw him become the prosecution’s star witness in the jury trial.
Since his release, Lightsey has resumed his life in the South Georgia area working outside the peanut industry.
Next up for release after Wilkerson is Daniel Kilgore, 50, who also plead guilty to multiple counts and testified for the government at the 2014 jury trial, helping convict the others. He is due to be released on Jan. 30, 2021 after serving six years mostly at the federal lockup in Oakdale, LA.
The jury trial ended with the convictions of Wilkerson, PCA Chief Executive Stewart Parnell, 64, and his peanut broker brother Michael, 60.
Wilkerson was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. Both were so-called “process crimes” involving statements to federal officers who investigated PCA’s role in the outbreak for four years before bringing charges. Wilkerson was acquitted on one of the two counts.
That did not get her a break at sentencing, however, as the maximum five-year sentence was imposed.
When she reaches the half-way house later this year, Dismas promises to provide Wilkerson ” a range of tailored services that address specific community needs and meets or exceeds stringent government regulations associated with residential re-entry centers.”
The Parnell brothers were both convicted of multiple felony counts in a trial that depicted their criminal conspiracy, allowing shipments of peanut butter and peanut paste that they knew were contaminated with Salmonella. Stewart Parnell was sentenced to 28 years and Michael Parnell to 20.
According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, Stewart Parnell’s current release date is Feb. 2, 2040, and Michael’s is Feb. 17, 2033. But those dates might not be set in cement anymore.
The First Step Act of 2018, the historic bipartisan prison reform passed by Congress late last year and signed into law by President Trump, has some provisions that are sure to interest white collar criminals like the Parnell brothers. Some may impact release dates, some not.
Held at Estill, SC, Stewart Parnell is within 500 of his Virginia home. But the Milan, MI prison holding Michael Parnell is well outside that range. The Frist Step Act addresses family separation by requiring the Bureau of Prisons to locate prisoners as close as practicable to their primary residence.
Low-risk inmates also get consideration for spending time on home confinement under the new First Step Act. It says low-risk prisoners should get home confinement at the end of their sentences for the maximum amount of time permitted by law.
Older prisoners or elderly offenders are also getting some options for home detention and compassionate release. The elderly offender options are now available at all BOP facilities; the age for qualification is reduced from 65 years to 60 years of age, and only 2/3rds of the sentence must be served to be eligible.
Also, inmates who enlist and remain in good standing in a prison’s recidivism reduction program or activities can earn time credits so that transfer to a halfway house or home confinement can occur earlier.
Prisoners who qualify will earn 10 days of time credit for every 30 days of successful program participation and inmates who are “minimum ” or “low risk” for recidivating can earn 5 additional days for every two consecutive assessments.