Farmer Acquitted by Jury Now Threatened With Jail by Department of Justice
Baraboo, Wisconsin—June 3, 2013 —Less than a week after the jury acquitted him of three criminal charges,Eric Defort and Phillip Ferris, attorneys for the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), move to have the judge revoke the terms of the bond and jail Vernon Hershberger.
In January 2012 Vernon Hershberger was arraigned at the Sauk County Courthouse on four criminal misdemeanor charges for violations of the state food and dairy code; after appearing before Judge Guy Reynolds, he was released on a $500 bond with the bond containing conditions he was not to violate.
In March 2012, Defort and Ferris sent a letter to judge Guy Reynolds requesting a revocation of Vernon Hershberger’s release order, based on the state’s contention that Hershberger was violating terms of the release. The judge, in a court hearing in Baraboo, refused to hear the request, telling the prosecutors that he only responded to motions, not to letters. The prosecutors never followed up with a motion….more than 14 months later. The motion was filed the morning of Friday May 31, 2013.
The state filed its motion shortly after a Capital Times online article on Vernon Hershberger posted May 29. The motion claims “the article reflects that Hershberger admits that he violated the bail conditions ‘all along’.” The main conditions under the terms of Hershberger’s release were that he not sell food without a retail food establishment license, manufacture or process dairy products without a dairy plant license, nor sell or distribute milk produced on his farm without a milk producer license. The jury acquitted Hershberger on charges that he failed to have these licenses. Hershberger was convicted on a fourth charge of violating a hold order. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) initially targeted Hershberger for supplying a private buying club with fresh milk and other farm products.
“This action by DATCP is disappointing because we had hoped that the verdict would trigger a re-evaluation at DATCP of its approach to enforcement in the agricultural community. The verdict offered an opportunity to open dialogue and a badly needed mending of the damaged relationship between the Department and family farms. It is unfortunate that the government has instead chosen to pursue more of the same: expensive, heavy-handed enforcement that further erodes trust of the community,” stated Hershberger’s attorney, Elizabeth Rich.
On June 3 at 1:00 p.m. there will be a telephone conference to set a date for sentencing on the hold order conviction. At that time DOJ will request a revocation of the January 2012 order releasing Hershberger.
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and artisan food producers while protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Those concerned can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).
Farm Food Freedom Coalition wants to ensure that America’s treasures, our independent farms and ranches, are able to thrive. We aim to preserve our agricultural heritage and the future availability of traditional, farm fresh foods. Americans want and deserve the freedom to choose natural, unprocessed foods for generations to come. Visit farmfoodfreedom.org.
For additional information on raw milk: realmilk.com
For additional background on the case: WI Case: Vernon Hershberger or VernonHershberger.com
Previous Press Release about this case: Farmer Faces Jail for Feeding Community