As table set for United States v. Paul Kruse, save a place for Blue Bell

Federal Judge Robert Pitman set the table for the criminal trial of the United States vs. Paul Kruse, which begins in seven and half months in Austin, TX. Jury selection and the trial is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m. on March 14, 2022, in the Texas Western District of the U.S. District Court.

Judge Pitman’s latest scheduling order sets pre-trial deadlines for both prosecuting and defense attorneys.  The defense must share their expert witnesses with the government by Nov. 12, 2001. Pre-trial exclusion motions for any “Daubert” hearings to consider the admissibility of any “expert,” scientific or technical testimony and evidence are due Dec. 14, 2021.

The prosecution must turn over lists of witnesses and exhibits it plans to use at trial to the defense no later than Jan. 13, 2022, and impeachable evidence must be identified by that deadline.

Defense attorneys Chris Flood of Houston and John Cline of San Francisco are already in receipt of 1.1 million pages of material, some scientific and some technical requiring “consultation with experts.”  The government has already provided notice for 24 experts to call, subject to defense Daubert or other challenges.

Pre-trial action likely will resolve the role of Blue Bell Creameries in the criminal trial. Pitman quashed one subpoena seeking to compel testimony from corporate Blue Bell officials that the judge found violating attorney-client privilege.

The U.S. District Court for Western Texas is divided into seven divisions. Jury selection will likely be drawn from the 17 counties of the Austin Division. Those counties — Bastrop, Blanco, Burleson, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hay, Kimble, Lampasas, Lee, Liano, Mason, McCulloch, San Saba, Travis, Washington, and Williamson — are at the heart of Blue Bell ice cream country.

Blue Bell’s headquarters is at Brenham, TX, located in Washington County.

Blue Bell Ice Cream is rarely out of the news in Texas and almost always very popular. And Texans remain close to their favorite ice cream. Last week, for example, a San Antonio woman was on a statewide crusade to bring back Krazy Kookie Dough. It was a flavor from the creamery’s temporary pandemic offerings.

Blue Bell makes news when it announces those seasonal flavors. And when a popular season flavor ends its run, it’s news again.

Blue Bell, in the past, was served on Air Force One. Last week, those in a dust-up over the Israeli-boycotting Ben and Jerry’s quickly named Blue Bell a better choice.

Massive coolers at those big H-E-B markets in Texas keep turning over and over with Blue Bell. Blue Bell Ice Cream production has been going non-stop for the past seven years.

But there was that time six years ago when Blue Bell was known for laying off almost all of its employees and an all-product recall of the nation’s third-largest ice cream.

The 2015 listeriosis outbreak led to the removal of all Blue Bell products from all of its production facilities including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks.

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 others 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 insanitary 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, 66, was the long-time president that led Blue Blue through the 2015 listeriosis crisis and remained for about three years before retiring. In 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Kruse for conspiracy and fraud, a total of seven federal felonies.

Most Texans lost their Blue Bell Ice Cream for about six months, especially between April and  August 2015 before the product slowly returned. Blue Bell’s return was phased in, first to Texas and then to the rest of the country where the ice cream is widely available.

And every year then since then, Blue Bell production has been steadily building.

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