Interviewer: Well, Victoria let's start with your story. You have a unique one, where you've spent some time in jail for something that most people wouldn't think is a big deal. Can you talk about it?
Victoria: I'd be happy to. It was an unusual experience for somebody who was volunteering at a farmer's market, and selling products to their CSA members, the community supported agriculture members, of the farm. They knew that the farmer raised goats. They knew that she probably had goat's milk because she had goats, and they said, "We've love to get some. Can we get it?" So they signed a waiver. She had somebody draw up a waiver and they'd hand it out to whoever wanted to join the CSA. And they could order goat's milk or any of the other products, the chicken, the eggs, the meat, and so on, and it would be waiting for them at the market.
And lo and behold, evidently, an undercover officer signed the waiver, joined the CSA, and ordered some goat's milk. And did it at a few markets, including the one where I was volunteering. And then, one morning as I was leaving my house, I drove about 50 yards down the street and an officer stepped out in front of my car with a badge, and I got out of the car and the next thing I knew I was in handcuffs and off to woman's jail, for, I had no idea what. And it turned out over the course of things that it was for selling raw milk without a proper label, and it could have been produced in terrible conditions and without a license, and God knows what else.
Interviewer: What did they tell you when you got pulled over? What was the reason that they brought you in?
Victoria: They actually didn't really tell me. They just said, as I walked there was a, if you're familiar with the story at all, because it was in the news for awhile, there was a buying club called Rawesome, that also bought goat's milk from the same farmer. But I had no connection with them, other than as a customer. But as I was being escorted out of my car, they said, "Do you know Rawesome?" And I said, "Yeah." I remember along with a couple of thousand other people. And that was really all the information I had till I got to jail.
But for me, it was an interesting experience because having grown up in a nice middle class family and gone to good schools and all of that, I just regard everything as a learning opportunity. So as bizarre as it was, it ended up being a learning opportunity. So I talked to my arresting officers during the long drive to the woman's jail, because they didn't even know where to take me at first. So there's only one jail you can take women in LA and they weren't sure where it was. So they figured that out, and by the time we got there we'd gone over some health issues, we'd talked about diet and I'd warned them about some of the dangers of soy and they apologized for arresting me, and they said, "We don't have any choice. The DA said, but here, you'll be fine. You'll be fine." And so I got my little booking slip, which I kept with me, and it had all kinds of numbered charges, which I didn't really know what they were. So I didn't find out till the next day, at which point I'd given three classes in the history of raw milk and the legality of it, at the request of my fellow detainees.
And in fact, just before I got released, because I was released on my own reconnaissance on the second day, the day after I was arrested, the sheriff deputy came to my door and said, "Are you black?" He said, "What's all the fuss?" Because there was a rally going on downstairs for me and one of the other people who'd been arrested and Mark McAfee, who owns Organic Pastures, and my co-western prize chapter leader, organized a rally on the steps of the jail.
So there we were, and I had no idea any of this was going on. But he said, "What's all the fuss downstairs?" He said, "I drink raw milk. What's the big deal?" And I said, "Well, blah, blah, blah." And he said, "Well come out and tell it to these other deputies." So he had me come out. I was still in my disposable paper jumpsuit that you change into for your release, and gave another class in the politics of raw milk to six sheriff deputies. It was quite an experience. And then I went home.
Interviewer: So what, you said one of the deputies drank raw milk.
Victoria: Raw milk is legal in California.
Interviewer: OK. So what was the problem with how it was being distributed?
Victoria: The problem was that it wasn't a dairy that was certified to produce raw milk for sale to the public. And the issue really revolved around, was it for sale? Well, you couldn't walk up to the stand and say, "Hey, give me some of that raw milk." You couldn't. You had to be a member and you had to sign a waiver saying, "I know it's coming direct from the farm. I know this is not the normal channels, and this is fine with me. This is just what I want. I would release anybody from liability." And it was a very thorough form that the farmer had had somebody draft up.
So, as far as she knew, she was covered. I had no idea how she produced goat's milk. I didn't know she was licensed, unlicensed. I assumed, if anything, that she probably had a license, because she had sold cheese at the farmer's market for years. It was pasteurized cheese, but as far as I knew, she was licensed as a dairy. And I didn't realize that her license had lapsed, which again, had something more to do with the State of California and the County of Ventura, than actually her failure to renew it. So they didn't acknowledge that she had renewed it, even though she had canceled checks, and so on and so on.
Interviewer: So you get released on your own reconnaissance.
Victoria: So I got released.
Interviewer: But that was far from the end.
Victoria: And that was far from the end. We went through 13 months before we even got to a preliminary hearing. So a month after, let's see, we got arrested in August, and in October the DA, that had arrested us ...
Interviewer: This was 2011, right?
Victoria: 2011, yeah, thank you for the reminder.
Victoria: That's OK. The arresting DA, actually was taken off the case. All of a sudden we went in for a hearing, one of many that we'd went to over 13 months, and suddenly we had a new DA. And in fact, it was a senior DA. It was two, and they were much higher leveled DA's that are more, the people that deal with high profile cases and they're not in a specific department. Like, our arresting DA was in environmental affairs, because that deals with everything from the smog emissions to farming. It's a kind of broad category.
So the higher leveled DA's (inaudible) it. But they dealt with more high profile cases. High profile murders, et cetera, et cetera. And remember, we were charged with felonies. These were misdemeanor level charges, like selling milk without a label, it's a misdemeanor. All the other, there were 14 charges in total between the three of us, but the DA chose to make them conspiracy to commit misdemeanors, and conspiracy is a felony, which effectively turned all 14 charges into felony charges, which meant that, had I been convicted on all of them, I could have spent as much as eight to 12 years in jail for having volunteered at a farm stand and passed over raw milk to somebody who wanted it, who was, as far as I knew, entitled to get it. And as far as the farmer knew was entitled to get it. And in fact, as far as the CSA member.
Anyway, so hearing after hearing the DA's had to come up to speed on the case. The discovery was baluminous. I had a notebook this thick with copies of the prints, like one of those four inch D-ring binders full of paper, and that was only a fraction of it. We understand that there was close to 8,000 pages of discovery. It was unbelievable. I never saw all of it. Some of it was on video, et cetera, et cetera.
Finally, what happened was, the day before the preliminary hearing was finally scheduled to begin, the DA, my attorney told me, was frantic to make a deal. And he said, " DA's never call lawyers. Lawyers are the ones that call DA's, because we got to get the person off. Come on. Come on." The DA, in this case, was calling my lawyer. Called him in the week before the prelim, called him four times the day I was meeting with him to prepare for the prelim, he called him two or three times. "Do we have a deal? Do we have a deal?" And finally, what we discussed was that I was looking at close to $40,000 in fees to go through the preliminary and then I would most likely go on to trial.
So, because judges usually go along with the DA's, which I understand. Just the structure of the system is, if the DA's done their homework and has enough paper, there's probably something there. So I would have been bound over for trial. And I didn't have $40,000 in disposable income, just kicking around that I wanted to spend on trial.
So the agreement that was made, the agreement, the plea that I accepted was to plead guilty to having sold one bottle of unlabeled milk to somebody. Obviously, the undercover officer, at some point. And it was a misdemeanor charge, and I paid $100 fine, and I'm on summary probation, which is unsupervised probation. And then, at the end of that time, it all goes away. And that's me.
Victoria Bloch tells her own story of her experience volunteering at a farmer's market and selling products to their community supported agriculture members. You won't believe how she was treated and why she was taken to jail! She was handcuffed and arrested for selling what? Wait until you hear her story!
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