Jurors who convicted Wis. organic farmer on 1 of 4 charges asked judge for lenient sentence

  • Updated: June 26, 2013 - 11:22 AM

MADISON, Wis. — A juror in a case involving a Loganville farmer who sold raw milk said she and three other jurors asked the judge to be lenient when he sentenced the farmer for violating a holding order placed on his products.

The Sauk County jurors wrote a letter saying they felt they passed judgment against organic farmer Vernon Hershberger without being given all the facts, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1cmbgtR ).

They found Hershberger, 41, not guilty on three charges that he produced milk and operated a dairy plant without a license, and that he illegally sold food in a retail establishment. But they found him guilty of violating the holding order because he admitted selling his products even after he was ordered to stop.

"But we weren't allowed to judge whether the holding order was valid," said Michele Bollfrass-Hopp, 51, of Merrimac.

Once Hershberger was acquitted of the other charges the holding order should have become a moot point, she said, adding, "You have to have common sense when you apply the law."

Bollfrass-Hopp said she and three other jurors wrote to Sauk County Judge Guy Reynolds asking him to impose a lenient sentence. Reynolds ended up fining Hershberger $1,500 earlier this month.

Bollfrass-Hopp said she was so persuaded by the testimony that she even wants to join Hershberger's buyers' club now.

"I feel very passionate about it," she said, speaking to a group of about 35 people at Rock Springs Community Center on Tuesday evening.

Advocates of raw milk argue that consumers should be allowed to choose whether they want to buy unpasteurized milk. But opponents say the state has an obligation to protect consumers from milk that might make them sick.

Another juror, Kelly Winecke, said she now feels the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection should create new guidelines to protect both farmers and consumers.

"Make it their duty to let them know about safety and other concerns," she said.

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