After just five days of trial testimony, the United States v. Paul Kruse case is now in the hands of a Texas jury.
Testimony in federal court at the Western District Court in Austin, Texas, proceeded much faster than expected before the trial began with jury selection on August 1.
The Austin American Statesman Wednesday reported that the prosecution moved on to closing arguments. The court said the jury would resume deliberations today, meaning it could all be wrapped up in two weeks. Jurors were warned of a possible four-week trial when they were selected.
Kruse, 67, is the retired chairman of the iconic Blue Bell Creameries. He is on trial for federal crimes of conspiracy and fraud for suppressing certain information about a listeriosis epidemic in 2015. Ten people were sick and three died.
The 10 confirmed patients were from four states – Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1) and Texas (3) were infected and required hospitalization.
During a crisis lasting more than 60 days in 2015, Kruse finally recalled all Blue Bell products and closed its production facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama.
But Kruse did not act quickly enough for government prosecutors who said disclosures of the listeriosis problem had been hidden from customers and the public for too long.
Through “retrospective review,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found isolates collected from Blue Bell ice cream that matched illnesses with onset dates between 2010 and 2014.
This historical Pulsenet data for DNA “fingerprints”. including three previous deaths in Kansas where listeriosis was a factor, all occurred before Blue Bell learned of the outbreak in early 2015.
Andy Kollman, Blue Bell’s quality control manager for the period leading up to 2015, testified to the high bacteria counts the company was experiencing. “We have to deal with this problem or else we’re going to get in trouble,” he wrote to his bosses in a 2014 email.
Kollman also told the jury that a sample of ice cream was shipped and he later returned a positive test result for Listeria. He testified as a government witness with an agreement from the Department of Justice not to prosecute him.
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