Sunday, March 11, 2012

Milk-Slinging & Cookies

I shared a long emotional embrace with my dear friend, James Stewart, Friday evening immediately following his release from an unlawful and torturous week-long detention at a Ventura County jail. It was the first chance I'd had to see his face not through the dehumanizing grates of a cage, since his ambush into handcuffs during open court in Los Angeles, on the morning of Friday, March 2nd at a routine appearance for "conspiracy" charges related to raw milk. (I feel ridiculous even just typing that last phrase.)
[Left] Scanned copy of pharmacy ID-photo, taken 2 days before arrest;
[Right] Photo by me, using my iPhone w/flash, taken day of release.

Neither image has been edited in any way other than cropping and scaling.

He was visibly thinner, radically dehydrated and obviously malnourished. In fact, the last real food he had eaten was a couple of the raw, superfood cookies I'd been so proud to share with him on our way into court that morning. Knowing now in retrospect that he was about to go so long without proper sleep and nourishment, I wish I had brought more food along. Of course, had the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, who'd reportedly issued the arrest warrant a full four days prior on 2/27, bothered to alert James that they had done so (or issued a simple summons to appear) - and therefore given him the opportunity to be prepared in confronting the charges - all of this drama and nonsense could have been avoided.

My raw superfood cookie creation...
James's last taste of real food before his arrest.

Instead, my friend was, by all appearances, kidnapped by the government and thrust into a tight-leashed tour of hell. Then came the unsettling silence from a man to whom I - and so many others - love to listen. For those who don't already know, Stewart is one of the most knowledgeable, honest and generous men around, especially when it comes to food. You should see him shop the farmer's markets... Everywhere he goes he recognizes faces, makes new friends and seems to attract small crowds of folks who stop what they're doing to hear what he has to say. But for too long after his arrest,  we, his friends, were unable to hear his voice or offer him any kind of reassuring word. We couldn't let him know the many angles we were tirelessly working to help get him out of jail. For a while, in fact, we couldn't even find him in the system. We received only a couple calls from him on the day of his arrest, and then nothing for almost three days. It wasn't until his release 8 days later that we were able to hear the full story of what had happened.
Making new friends of vendors at the Farmer's Market, 3/11/12

Upon his unnecessarily dramatic arrest during open court, no charges were presented to him. I watched as he was handcuffed without explanation and then whisked away through some back door of the courtroom. From there, he said, he was taken below the building and questioned. Though he had never once used the word, his interrogators quickly labeled him a "sovereign" and handled him as though he were a hazard to the general population of the jail. Soon after, he found himself shackled in chains wound about his waist and bound to a bench so tightly that he could barely move. And there he stayed for several hours, treated not even as just a common criminal, but as a full-on terrorist, which seems to be how the FBI's defines "sovereign". (Remember, this is a word the authorities used. James didn't even know what they meant by that word... So what reason would the government have for wanting to label a happy, friendly milk man a terrorist?) He was isolated, subjected to medical examinations while still handcuffed, abandoned to hypothermia in unreasonably cold temperatures, deprived of food and then left for a day and a half in a cell overflowing with raw sewage. When someone finally did arrive for clean-up, Stewart said he was handed a squeegee and instructed to clean up the mess himself.

Even if a person were to have been convicted of any crime, this kind of treatment would be intolerable. For Stewart, however, all this was happening a) by accusation ONLY, and b) without his ever having been informed as to the charges... SOMEONE TELL ME, PLEASE, HOW IS THIS LEGAL??!?! For a system supposedly founded on the idea of "innocent, until proven guilty" I must say that everything I've observed in this whole incredible scenario is more than just very disturbing. To me, it seems closer to "guilty, until proven guiltier". How is it our present system can justify the sudden taking away of a loved one (who's never hurt anyone, by the way), without explanation, without a charging or accusatory instrument, treat that person as a criminal or in this case a terrorist, demand excessive funds be coughed up for the person's release, and then force that innocent man to prove his own innocence?? I'm pretty sure the answer is that they can't... and that their actions are NOT legal.  Or if these actions are legal, then we MUST change the law. Maybe this happens every day in other parts of the world, and perhaps I should consider it my good fortune to have remained so distanced from it thus far; I see it now though, and regardless of where and who it involves, behavior such as this is atrocious and rotten and dirty and unforgivable... It is CRIMINAL. The system itself is behaving criminally. And whose job is it, then, if not ours, to hold our government accountable?

The assault continued in court, of course. During Thursday's bail reduction hearing for Stewart (whose bail eventually dropped by 10% to $100,000 from an outrageous $1 Million) and Sharon Palmer, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I listened to Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Harman present a whole string of factual errors as truth before the judge:

He claimed Stewart had "declared himself to be a sovereign citizen", which is untrue. He said Stewart was a flight risk due to "extensive travel ties to Thailand and Brazil", but James has never been to Thailand in his life. When pressed as to the charges and excessive bail amount assigned without ever having heard Stewart's story in all this, Harman argued the District Attorney's office had "tried to talk to Mr. Stewart several times, and he never returned our calls." In my experience, Stewart has both caller ID and a good memory, and said he promptly returned the only call he has ever received from Ventura County, and that was months ago. Stewart's counsel also pointed out that his name doesn't even appear on the title of the property and argued that he essentially has nothing to do with the charges in this case, except for being a friend of Sharon Palmer's.

I watched too as Harman did his best to assassinate the character of Sharon Palmer who, by all accounts of those who know her well (and according to numerous character statements collected and presented to the judge that day), is one of the most trustworthy, good-hearted people on the planet. But Harman called her a "wolf in sheep's clothing who has preyed on her trusting community". By coloring his interpretation of her prior convictions - which appear to have had more to do with Palmer's former husband than with Palmer herself - Harman accused her of routinely targeting old people for investment scams.  Palmer's attorney called Harman's claims "factually and chronologically untrue" and argued that her prior convictions were not only more than a decade old, but have been misused in every bail proceeding since. "At some point, Your Honor" he said, "wisdom has to step in." Some welcomed wisdom eventually came in a 75% reduction of her bail, from $2 Million to $500,000.

"The People" vs. James Stewart & Sharon Palmer? What a crock. I am the People, and I never authorized any such attacks against my own source of nutrient-dense, life-giving foods.

At a follow-up appearance in court the next day, regarding the source of James's bail funds, I remember  the presiding judge, Donald D. Coleman, greeted Mr. Harman with something to the effect of, "You again?" ...I won't say I wasn't amused by that.

What's not amusing, however, is that Palmer remains in custody, and god-knows how awful her conditions must be. Now that he's out of jail himself, Stewart has said he can't rest until Palmer is also released. He visited her farm yesterday afternoon (the very next day after his own release) to offer moral support and assist her friends, family and loved ones in plans to raise funds for the $500,000 that still stands between her and freedom from jail. And then the work begins to raise funds for upcoming legal expenses. A fund-raising event for that may be held as early as sometime this week. My hope is that Sharon Palmer is released in time to be there. Thanks to the heartless drama-queens and character assassins at Ventura County, Palmer has already missed her daughter's birthday over the weekend. Let's make sure she doesn't miss anything else... Not one more day. Please contact FriendsOfHealthyFamilyFarms@gmail to find out how you can contribute.

At Healthy Family Farms on 3/10/12
in support of Sharon Palmer.
Photo courtesy Friends Of Rawesome.
For my part, I'm just so grateful my friend has managed to find his warm, kind smile again, after all he's experienced. And, be it in the form of more hugs or my continued efforts to help expose the on-going corruption within the ranks of government, it is my intention to support him and Sharon, in any way I can, as they seek to set the record straight regarding the injustices perpetuated against them. No one deserves what they've been through - especially not a farmer and a milk man.

As James reminded me with a laugh yesterday, plenty more than just goat milk can go "baaaaaaaad".

To read my detailed account of the subsequent three-day preliminary hearing on these charges out of Ventura County, please click below:

For a more detailed account of the many abuses James Stewart suffered, please visit the following links:

To help support James & Sharon, please contact the following, respectively:


  1. this is a complete travesty of justice this is typical of la county trying cases that make no sense whatsoever its a clear case of big dairy paying off people in power to screw with people that are taking some of their profits and they dont like it pure and simple!

  2. This is absolutely shocking! I am new to raw milk, but I was desperately ill for over a year and raw milk ( someone told me about Aajonus Vonderplanitz book) and dairy did much to help heal me.

    I am in Asia now and sad not to have it available. By chance I found your website and love it. Also strangely, found an old friend I knew many years ago in NYC ( Victoria Bloch) is involved with all of this.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thats what you get for abusing cows. Yeah the cows milk is for the calf not for humans. All you idiots who think you are getting "healed" Reality check. You are only healing because you are eliminating the "more unhealthier" commercial dairy from your diet. There is nothing healing about raw milk. It still has 59 growth hormones meant to make a calf grow to 1000 pounds in a few weeks.
    Many who go on raw milk also go on a raw diet of veggies. Wake up people its the shift in your diet that is making you healthy not raw milk.
    You feel good when you drink? yeah just like a morphine addict who feels good when he takes morphine. Milk contains casein morphines that make you feel good and keep you addicted. It was designed to keep babies(or any species) addicted to their mother's milk as that is the the only food they should eating when they are infants.
    Any raw "farmer"(rather "cow rapist" who has to inseminate the cow against her will and keep her perpetually pregnant to make this commercially viable)has to steal the milk of calves or its not commercially viable to run a business.
    You would wonder why Karma is hitting "raw dairy breeders" faster that "factory farm" owners. Because factory farm owners do not pretend to be "angels" raw diary and humane breeders are bigger liars.
    Wisen up and stop exploiting the cow. You were not meant to drink milk forget selling something that is not yours

  4. "qwan": Veggies (which certainly have great value, but which still are lacking in some essential nutrients, like vitamin B12), I think, are no more fully the answer where diet is concerned than Raw dairy might be fully the answer where healing is concerned. It's true that many folks who begin consuming foods considered "healthier" (like raw dairy) are simultaneously cutting out lots of crap from their diets as well. It's true in my case, I know. I couldn't tell you the last time I had a soda, or dry cereal. (This is precisely why I try to be careful not to attribute my progress to any one thing. The truth is that I may never know for sure what's behind it, and it is also true that different approaches can work for different people.) These are important and helpful points of discussion which I completely welcome. But to say anyone - especially a man who's given so much of his time and knowledge to helping people - deserves this kind of treatment is not only unkind... In my opinion, it is insane. Furthermore, please understand that the goal of my blog is not to be a platform for calling people "idiots" or accusing strangers of "rape". While I welcome comments of both agreement and dissent, I would thank you, in the future, to please be mindful of what you say and how you say it.