“I thought I was gonna die in there.” Those are the words not of a former prisoner of a communist gulag but of 65-year-old American James Stewart, describing his seven days in southern California jails. Stewart says he was subjected to “torture” and “brutality” including sleep deprivation, starvation, hypothermia, involuntary medical testing, highly unsanitary conditions, and solitary confinement — all because he had the temerity to sell raw milk to willing customers.
Stewart was arrested last summer when armed local cops and federal agents raided his Venice, California, natural foods club, Rawesome Foods (photo). Also arrested at that time were Sharon Palmer, operator of Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula, and her employee, Eugenie Victoria Bloch. Healthy Family Farms supplies dairy products to Rawesome for distribution to club members.
On March 2 all three were appearing in Los Angeles County court for a hearing concerning the charges against them, which stem from their alleged trafficking in raw dairy products without a license. As the hearing was ending, Stewart and Palmer were handcuffed and arrested by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies under a warrant from nearby Ventura County. Ventura County alleges that Palmer defrauded several individuals by accepting short-term loans from them to purchase Healthy Family Farms in 2008 and then failing to repay those loans. Because some of those who loaned her money were Rawesome members, and because Stewart had put her in contact with those individuals, he, too, is being charged.
Oddly, though the arrest warrant had been issued by Ventura County, Stewart was taken to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A., where he says he was subjected to the worst of the torture for the next two days before being transferred to a Ventura County jail.
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