The Minnesota Department of Agriculture continues to push ahead with misdemeanor criminal charges involving the distribution of raw milk, meat, and eggs against farmer Alvin Schlangen in his home county, despite the similarity to three charges he was acquitted on last September.
At a hearing in St. Cloud today, the Stearns County prosecutor, representing the MDA, indicated he has no intention of going along with a motion by Schlangens lawyer to dismiss three of six charges that are very similar to those he was acquitted of by a Minneapolis jury. In arguing briefly against the motion, prosecutor Bill MacPhail likened raw milk to a controlled substance.
Schlangens lawyer, Nathan Hansen, was taken aback. I would dispute that raw milk is a controlled substance, he told the judge.
Both the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions prohibit “double jeopardy”–trying a person more than once on charges he was acquitted of.
The judge, Thomas Knapp, gave the prosecution two weeks to file a brief in opposition to the Schlangen dismissal motion. The defense will then have a week to file a response. Its not clear how soon after the three-week process the judge will issue a ruling on the Schlangen dismissal motion.
The complaint against Schlangen alleges he was violating Minnesotas prohibitions on selling raw milk he didnt produce, and that he was selling beef, eggs, and other foods without proper licenses.Three charges having to do with illegal sale of raw milk and selling food without a retail license are very similar to the previous charges. The three having to do with his alleged failure to keep eggs at prescribed temperatures, selling custom-slaughtered beef and chicken, and removing embargoed food, are new ones.
Schlangen argued successfully at his trial in Minneapolis in September that he was delivering the milk from a farm to members of his food club. The eggs, he said, came from his own farm. He was distributing other foods as a volunteer manager of the food club, he maintained. If found guilty of all six Stearns County charges, Schlangen could face 18 months in jail, plus a $6,000 fine.
The MDA has similarly shown no inclination to back off a case it filed in an administrative court seeking to have Schlangen prohibited from carrying out the same activities the criminal suits have accused him of. That case involves no penalties, unless Schlangen were to violate any prohibitions; then, he could be brought to trial on still similar criminal charges.