Attorneys defending former Blue Bell Creameries boss Paul Kruse have dropped concerns that the coronavirus pandemic may have tainted the grand jury who indicted their client.
Chris Flood of Houston and John D. Cline of San Francisco filed a motion on November 23 for disclosure of grand jury selection of records “based on a concern that the coronavirus pandemic may have caused deviations from the Jury Selection and Service Act and This District Amended Jury Plan in Selecting the Grand Jury that Indicted Him (Kruse). “
“Information provided by the government has now alleviated that concern” a December 10th defense motion says: “In particular, the government has advised Kruse’s council that the grand jury who empaneled the indictment back in this case in February 2020 before the pandemic began to affect court operations and that no large jurors were replaced after the grand jury was installed in February 2020. “
Based on this information, Flood and Cline have asked Federal Judge Robert Pitman to either allow her motion to withdraw Nov. 23 on behalf of Kruse or, in the alternative, just to deny the motion as disputed.
The 66-year-old Kruse was charged with criminal conspiracy and fraud in a “true bill” issued by the grand jury on October 20th. The government initially brought the same charges on May 1 as criminal information. That charge was dismissed on July 15 because Kruse would not waive his right to a grand jury trial.
Other pre-trial questions remain in Judge Pitman’s Western Texas District Court in Austin. Most importantly, the defense motion is again to dismiss all charges, this time for reasons that the 5 year statute of limitations has expired.
Blue Bell pleaded guilty in a similar case in May of two cases of sales of adulterated food in violation of federal food, drug and cosmetic law. He agreed to pay fines $ 17.5 million and $ 2.1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations relating to ice cream products manufactured under unsanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities, including the military.
The total of $ 19.35 million in fines, confiscation and civil severance payments was the second largest amount ever paid in resolution of a food safety matter.
The criminal charges concern Kruse’s role in the 2015 Listeria outbreak, which was the source of Blue Bell branded products. A total of 10 people with listeriosis-related outbreak were reported from four states: Arizona had 1, Kansas 5, Oklahoma 1, and Texas 3. All sick people were hospitalized. Three deaths have been reported from Kansas.
On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled all products on the market at that time that were made at all of its establishments, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet and frozen snacks. It also closed its manufacturing facilities in four states.
The US Food and Drug Administration published the critical results of the latest inspections at Blue Bell’s manufacturing facilities on May 7, 2015.
Listeriosis is a life-threatening infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. People at high risk for listeriosis include pregnant women and their newborns, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.
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