“Food rights proponents got another civics lesson today when Alvin Schlangen’s jury trial on four misdemeanor charges, due to begin next Monday, was put off indefinitely.
It is easy for food rights proponents who participated in protest activities in Minnesota in recent days to think they’re not being noticed. In point of fact, they are being noticed, big time.
The Hennepin County prosecutor in charge of the Alvin Schlangen trial succeeded in delaying the trial, using the excuse that a lab technician from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture due to testify about raw milk was unavailable next week.
Nathan Hansen, the lawyer for Schlangen, said the trial could have moved forward if Hansen had been willing to “stipulate the facts,” that is, accept the witness’ testimony unchallenged. But of course, you don’t need much of an imagination to figure out what the nature of the state’s assessment of raw milk would be. Certainly part of the state’s case will be fear mongering about the dangers of raw milk.
“I didn’t want to stipulate the facts,” Hansen told me. “My job is to defend my client, not help them. ..I objected to a continuance of the case, but the judge granted it.”
What if Hansen had come to the court and said one of his witnesses had been unavailable? “He probably wouldn’t give a continuance to the defense,” said Hansen.
No new date for this, the anticipated first jury trial in a food rights case, has been set. Why would the state want to delay? A couple reasons:
First, it is afraid of a jury trial. A group of 12 ordinary citizens is much more likely than a judge to ask the simple question: What the heck has Alvin Schlangen done wrong? And a jury trial with dozens of supporters of the defendant sitting in the audience? Intolerable.
Second, getting a reprieve gives the state time to possibly pile on more charges. In addition to the four misdemeanor counts due to be tried in Hennepin County, the state already has a second case, consisting of six misdemeanor counts, pending against Schlangen in Stearns County. That case adds two charges not in the Hennepin County charges, accusing Schlangen of not having a food handlers license and of failing to keep his eggs at a maximum of 47 degrees (saying his eggs were kept at 53 degrees)….”