Michigan Raw Milk Case Seems to Be Winding Up, Decision on Charges Could Come Within Two Weeks

Will he or won’t he? Victor Fitz is the Cass County prosecutor, and the decision about whether to file charges against Richard Hebron and anyone else associated with Michigan’s Family Farm Cooperative in connection with distribution of raw milk to cow share owners is in his hands.

I spoke with him this afternoon and, while I couldn't get him to say what his decision will be, I learned that the investigation has essentially wrapped up and a decision on charges should come within two weeks. He said he and his staff are still reviewing the evidence—from the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), as well as from agents in Indiana and Pennsylvania, who investigated farms supplying product to the Family Farm Cooperative. “In a week or two, we’ll have that completed and take the next step, whatever that may be.”

(It’s worth pointing out that Fitz told me in late October that there was “a high likelihood” there would be a decision in a week; his office has since blamed delays in receiving the MDA’s report on the case.)

He indicated that while his office now has a full report from the MDA, it hasn’t received complete reports from the Indiana and Pennsylvania investigations. Nonethess, that “will not delay this matter.”

When I asked him about possible federal charges stemming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s involvement, he said he was “not specifically aware of a federal component.” But he did raise the possibility that other Michigan counties could file their own charges “because product was being transported across the state.” He steadfastly refused to say whether he was aware of any other counties actively considering filing charges. It is known that in Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor is located and where the cooperative’s milk was to be distributed when its products were confiscated by the state last Oct. 13, prosecutors were examining the case, but a month afterward still hadn’t taken any steps to examine evidence or obtain reports.

All signs are that the main action is in Fitz’s office, where it's been all along. He’s got the evidence (Hebron’s computer, cell phones, and co-op business records). If I were a betting man, I would bet that charges of some sort—possibly involving mislabeling of food products or illegal distribution of food products from other states—will be filed. I just have trouble imagining so many bureaucrats spending so many months scampering around on this situation for the authorities to simply say, “Oh, we didn’t mean any harm to Mr. Hebron. We're terribly sorry about any inconvenience we may have caused.”