Attorneys finish closing arguments, jury begins deliberations in Assemi-Wonderful Pistachios case

The potential award of hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over the breakup of the Assemi Family and Wonderful Pistachios now lies in the hands of a Fresno County jury.

Closing arguments finished on Tuesday in the Assemi Brothers’ case against The Wonderful Company over a breach of contract with their pistachio operations. 

The jury now begins deliberating after listening to testimony for the last several weeks. 


Wonderful’s closing remarks: Wonderful attorney Rick Shackelford took up most of Tuesday morning arguing the final points on behalf of Wonderful owner Stewart Resnick. 

  • After focusing much of his Monday portion of closing arguments on Kevin Assemi, the son of Farid Assemi, on Monday, Shackelford addressed the so-called “super trees” – pistachio trees genetically engineered to produce more nuts. He also talked about the handshake agreement that Farid Assemi and Resnick allegedly had to deliver the trees to the Assemis to keep the Assemis signed on for another 10 years. 
  • Shackelford argued to the jury that in 2015 when the trees started arriving – of which there are now 384,000 – there had to have been an agreement for them in place because the Assemis had been preparing their land for them. 
  • “On the basis of a handshake deal the trees started coming to Farid’s ranch,” Shackelford said. 
  • As he did earlier in the trial, Shackelford pointed to Resnick’s handshake deal with the Parnagian family. That deal has never been put in writing, but the Parnagians have agreed to deliver pistachios to Wonderful long-term. 
  • “Simply put, Farid and his family will reap the benefits of those trees for decades,” Shackelford said. 

The last word: Assemi attorney James Bennett gave his closing argument on Monday and had a rebuttal on Tuesday to get the last word in. 

  • Bennett went after Shackelford’s “character assassination” of Kevin Assemi on Monday in which he was painted as the mastermind behind the Assemi’s split from Wonderful and only driven by money. 
  • Keeping his rebuttal on the shorter end, Bennett said Shackelford completely made up the concept of an oral handshake agreement, once again telling the jury that there is not anything in writing to support it. 
  • “Frankly all this storytelling has nothing to do with the evidence, and respectfully I don’t think it was calculated to help you get to the result in this case, the true result,” Bennett said. 

What we’re watching: After Bennett wrapped up his rebuttal, Judge Jeffrey Hamilton gave his final instructions to the jury as they began deliberating Tuesday afternoon. 

  • The jury will eventually return to the courtroom to decide on a verdict and damages, which could range into nine figures.
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