by: Summer Tierney
(NaturalNews) It seems a little raw milk muscle can go a long way in defeating haters of food freedom.
The reason? A series of raw milk-related charges lobbed against them by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office evaporated virtually over night. The two had been arrested and jailed back in August 2011, along with co-defendant and Rawesome manager James Stewart, and charged with various felony and misdemeanor crimes. The charges stemmed from a herd-share arrangement between the farm and the private food club, by which Palmer provided raw goat milk to Rawesome members. All three defendants had made bail within a week of their arrests and for more than one year, have been in and out of court, and working to prepare their defense.
In a surprise move, on the very September morning the trial was set to begin, the D.A. seemed to be offering up its most generous plea deals yet, as though they were hot potatoes. Instead of presenting its case evidence before the court, they appeared to be in full-steam negotiation mode. Palmer had previously rejected an offer from the D.A. that would have had her pleading guilty to one felony count, serving five years felony probation, and thereby crippling her ability to sell foods at farmers markets. That wasn't ever an option, Palmer has said.
But now that sorry deal has sweetened considerably. All charges against Palmer and Bloch would be dropped, if they each would plead guilty to one misdemeanor (Palmer to distributing milk product in "unsanitary conditions," and Bloch to mislabeling one vial of goat milk), pay a small fine and agree to summary probation. In addition, Palmer would have to perform 40 hours of community service but would be able to continue selling her product at local farmers markets.
This dramatic turn of events reportedly came after Palmer's attorney subpoenaed Richard Estes, Chief Counsel for the California Department of Food & Agriculture, intending to challenge the agency's position on herd-shares. The trouble with the charges – and the Los Angeles District Attorney's office knows it – is that California has NO current law in place regarding herd-shares. So, rather than have Estes testify and then spend considerable time defending their reasons for having filed charges in the first place, prosecutors opted to make a deal. And Palmer and Bloch, glad finally to put the whole mess behind them, agreed.
In a later interview, Palmer added that the term "unsanitary conditions" was misleading, as it refers to milk she fed one of her pigs, which was kept in a non-food container. And even that milk, Palmer said, had tested clean and was free of pathogens.
The developments mean that Stewart may perhaps be offered a similar deal by or before his next court appearance in Los Angeles, on October 18. He is currently in custody at the Ventura County jail, after being rearrested for missed court appearances and, ironically, was reportedly held back by Ventura from attending the September court date in Los Angeles with Palmer and Bloch.
Stewart and Palmer both face additional charges in Ventura County, related to financial crimes and defrauding farm investors. But it's a whole lot of nonsense. Previous reports by Natural News and other alternative media outlets have already exposed the Ventura County District Attorney office's prosecution for the frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars that it is. The case there is equally as flimsy – if not more so – than the raw milk-related charges in Los Angeles.
Still, they hold captive one of southern California's most pioneering champions of high quality health foods. In hopes of changing this fact, supporters of both James Stewart and Sharon Palmer have started a petition demanding Ventura County immediately release Stewart and drop all charges against the two. You can sign and share the petition by clicking here: http://www.change.org
However, if the Ventura County District Attorney's office chooses to ignore the demands by the people, then trial will move forward as scheduled, beginning as early as October 30.