Former Blue Bell president’s trial delayed until summer
The trial of Paul Kruse, a scion of the family that has run Blue Bell Creameries since 1919, has again been postponed.
Federal Judge Robert Pitman signed an order delaying jury selection by 140 days, now setting it on Aug. 1 immediately before the trial begins. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin has jurisdiction over the case.
Kruse headed the company in 2015 when an outbreak of Listeria infections traced to the firm’s ice cream sickened 10 and killed three.
Federal felony charges of conspiracy and fraud have been pending against Kruse since October 2020. This past year, his defense attorneys asked to delay the trial to 2022 because of their obligations for other clients.
Until this second delay, Kruse, the retired chief executive of Blue Bell Creameries, was scheduled for a jury trial beginning March 14 this year.
The 140-day delay extends that start date for jury selection and trial to Aug. 1.
Kruse was the third generation of his family to head Blue Bell. He was preceded by E.F, Kruse who took the reins in 1919. He died in 1951 and was followed by his sons, Ed and Howard Kruse.
It was on Paul Kruse’s watch, however, that Blue Bell faced the biggest crisis in the company’s 115 year history. A 2015 listeriosis outbreak shut-down Blue Bell’s production and required a recall of all its product from the market place. And a near 5-year criminal investigation led to Kruse being charged with seven felonies associated with the outbreak.
Ten people with listeriosis were associated with the outbreak from four states: Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3). Kansas reported three deaths. All of the other patients required hospital care.
As a corporate entity, Blue Bell pleaded guilty in a related case in 2020 to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The company agreed to pay criminal penalties totaling $17.5 million and $2,1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations regarding ice cream products manufactured under unsanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities, including the military. The total $19.35 million in fines, forfeiture, and civil settlement payments was the second-largest amount ever paid in the resolution of a food safety matter.
Kruse is the only individual facing criminal charges as a result of the 2015 outbreak.
Judge Pitman’s “Second Amended Scheduling Order” was signed Jan. 6, one day after a pretrial telephone conference.
According to the Pitman, the order, “in the above-entitled and numbered case parties have conferred and jointly moved for an order governing pretrial deadlines for this complex criminal case.”
The defense attorneys previously won a delay into 2022 because they had commitments to appear at 2021 trials for other clients. No such definitive reason exists for the latest delay to Aug. 1.
Here’s the rest of the amended schedule:
May 26, 2022
- Deadline for the parties to file pretrial motions related to the potential exclusion of expert testimony according to the Daubert standard, a rule of evidence regarding the admissibility of expert witness testimony.
June 2, 2022
- Deadline for the government in providing lists of witnesses and exhibits to defense. This impeachment evidence includes Giglio materials.
June 13, 2022
- Responses to Daubert filings are due.
June 17, 2022
- Defense must file a list of witnesses and exhibits.
- Government’s deadline for filing its proposed jury instructions and verdict form.
June 22, 2022
- Deadline for pretrial motions.
July 1, 2022-
- Deadline for defense objections to proposed jury instructions and verdict form.
July 18, 2022
- Deadline for government response to defense objections to jury instructions and verdict form.
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