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This peanut executive may get life in prison

July 24, 2015, 8:58 PM UTC
Peanut Corp Of America CEO Testifies Before House On Salmonella Outbreak
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 11: Stewart Parnell, owner and president of the Peanut Corporation of America, is sworn in before during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill February 11, 2009 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on recent salmonella outbreaks associated with peanut butter manufactured by the Peanut Corporation of America. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Photograph by Mark Wilson — Getty Images

Stewart Parnell, 61, the former owner of Peanut Corporation of America, could find himself in prison for life. That’s because his company was responsible for a salmonella outbreak that claimed the lives of nine people from 2008 to 2009 and caused hundreds more to fall ill.

This week, prosecutors recommended that he get a life sentence. In 2014, a federal jury found him guilty of shipping peanut butter spoiled with salmonella – knowingly, according to Consumerist.

Prosecutors filed a brief that calculates Parnell could be eligible for a life sentence due to sentencing guidelines from the case. Lawyers for Parnell, of course, are questioning that recommendation. But Dr. Ian Williams, who heads the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch at the Centers for Disease Control, explained that 714 illnesses are related to the outbreak, which may have led to “as many as 20,000 ill people across the United States,” per Consumerist.

Parnell’s attorney called the life sentence recommendation “truly absurd” in a statement to the Associated Press. “We hope the judge will see that Stewart Parnell never meant to hurt anyone. He ate the peanut butter himself. He fed it to his children and to his grandchildren.”

He is scheduled to be sentenced by September 21.