The Michael Schmidt legal situation has gotten so tangled that Ontario courts are having difficulty scheduling his court appearances.
As for Schmidt, he’s gunshy about even leaving a courtroom: “It’s gotten so when I walk out of court, they arrest me,” or so it seems to the embattled raw dairyman, about the Canadian practice of serving legal papers in courthouses.
Right now, he has three active cases:
-The sheep-napping case, which goes back four years now, and is still in the pre-trial stage. The pre-trial court hearings resumed this week and are scheduled to continue through next week. The case has gone on so long that half or more of the regulators involved in the case have retired or otherwise left the public trough, Schmidt estimates.
-The “cameras” case. This is the bizarre case in which Schmidt is charged with theft for removing cameras last summer that were set up in trees near his farm to spy on Schmidt and visitors to his farm. Isn’t it obvious he should have left those cameras, from parties unidentified, humming along recording life at this dairy? And that when he reported discovery of the cameras to the local police, he should have turned them over to the gendarmes without know whether it was a local pervert, or national intelligence authorities, or some other party, who had placed the cameras there.
-Obstructing police officers. This is the most recent case, an outgrowth of the raid by agriculture officials on his dairy in October in which Schmidt and his supporters outflanked and outmaneuvered the harassers by blocking them from leaving in a truck loaded with Schmidt’s milk and farm equipment. The regulators apparently didn’t take well to being put into the humiliating position of unloading their truck and giving back to Schmidt his stolen property, in order to be able to leave the scene of their crime.
Other charges may be pending, such as illegal distribution of raw milk, in connection with Schmidt’s ongoing private distribution of unpasteurized milk to members of his dairy. There are signs, though, that Canadian authorities may be tiring of the ongoing drama, in which Schmidt achieves ever-higher folk-hero status with each set of new charges.
A couple weeks ago, Ontario’s minority party leaders in the provincial parliament agreed to meet with Schmidt, after the province’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, refused repeatedly to meet with him. Then, last week, as Schmidt led a demonstration in Toronto that included supporters signing a food rights declaration, there was some conflict among officials. As some of Schmidt’s supporters pulled out raw milk to toast Queen Elizabeth, the titular head of the British Commonwealth, local police threatened to arrest participants for illegal distribution of raw milk. The parliament’s sergeant at arms intervened, since the demonstration was on parliament grounds, and the police left everyone alone.
Schmidt also reports that a group of his supporters could take the offensive in Canada’s highly restrictive raw dairy arena by organizing a class-action suit against the government over its denial of their access to raw milk. Schmidt didn’t have a lot of details about the suit, saying it was in the hands of farm shareholders.
There is a solution to the tangled legal situation, according to Schmidt: a “self governing” approach similar to the herd-share arrangements legalized in a number of American states over the past decade, like Michigan, Ohio and Colorado. Schmidt contends that regulators in Canada’s provinces could imitate regulators in places like Michigan and Ohio and simply declare private raw milk arrangements legal. Then, much of the air would come out of Michael Schmidt’s tangled legal web.
Schmidt recounts his entire protest history, going back to 1993, in this press conference, posted on Facebook and on The Bovine web site. Schmidt also is continuing fundraising via a crowdfunding campaign to defray the legal costs associated with the sheep-napping case.