Three words helped seal the prosecution's case against former peanut company boss Stewart Parnell—and they may send him to prison for the rest of his life. "Just ship it," wrote Parnell in 2007 to a plant manager worried about tainted products, CNN reports. A subsequent salmonella outbreak involving Peanut Corporation of America's products sickened more than 700 people and was linked to nine deaths. Parnell was convicted last year of 72 counts relating to the sale of tainted peanut products and faces a sentence of up to 803 years when he's sentenced today, reports the AP, which notes that the federal judge has the option of imposing a lesser sentence.
Parnell's brother Michael, who helped fake lab test results, is due to receive a lesser sentence, as is former plant manager Mary Wilkerson. Food safety violations usually result in misdemeanor charges, and Parnell is the first person convicted of a federal felony in such a case, CNN notes. The potential life sentence is unprecedented, and Parnell's lawyer says it is "absurd." Randy Napier, who lost his 80-year-old mother to salmonella poisoning linked to tainted peanut butter, disagrees. "We need to send a message to these food manufacturers," the North Carolina man tells the AP. "No one else should have to go through what we did, watching my mother die. I'm hoping to have closure. It's been six years of utter hell." (Cucumbers have been blamed for a 27-state outbreak.)