Outrage erupts when authorities toss 2 farmers in prison on 30-day sentences

 May 3, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A state legal action in Pennsylvania is sparking outrage, online and elsewhere, for the result it demanded: Two farmers arrested and jailed on 30-day sentences with no sentencing hearing and no option for bail.

Authorities say that's the process they use for contempt charges, for which Ethan Wentworth of Airville, York County, and Rusty Herr of Christiana, Lancaster County, have been serving time since last month.

Broadcast outlet WPMT in Harrisburg reported the government's complaint concerns their company, NoBull Solutions, which offers to help dairy farmers with their reproductive management of cattle.

Their lawyer, Robert Barnes, charges, "This is the craziest thing I've ever seen."

The fight stems from allegations the two were practicing veterinary medicine without a license for running ultrasound tests on cattle, a procedure that is common for farmers to use for various reasons.

The result was an investigation by the state of Pennsylvania, where officials demanded that the two turn over their records.

They failed to do what state officials demanded, and the report notes that resulted in contempt orders against the men.

The state's court officials told the broadcast outlet that there is no option for bail, and no "sentencing hearing" required for contempt charges. Authorities simply arrest the suspects and jail them, the report said.

Eventually, a judge signed arrest warrants for the two, as well as orders to jail them in their respective counties, warrants that had just recently been executed.

A critic of the two say there was ample due process, but Barnes issued a statement:

This is an unlawful civil contempt order. There are certain procedures that must be followed in a civil contempt action and to our knowledge those were not followed here. Even if they had been followed, the maximum allowable punishment is 15 days in jail which must be conditional, with keys to your own jail cell – meaning there is a condition you can meet to immediately end your incarceration. None of that is true in this case.

The state claims this is a punishment for not complying with a subpoena to turn over documents, but an agency can’t just order anyone to turn over any document they please. For a subpoena to be valid, the jurisdictional validity of the subpoena must be established, and it has not been in this case. Both men had sought the advice of an attorney regarding the case and had been told that the Veterinary Medical Board had no jurisdiction over them, that the subpoena was therefore invalid, and that there was nothing Ethan and Rusty needed to do.

There is no evidence that Ethan or Rusty ever saw the order the state claims to have mailed to them last August which threatened them with arrest if they did not comply. Ethan and Rusty were unaware that this was a possibility. It was a complete shock to them and to their families when they were arrested.

He explained his clients were "denied the ability to see the case against them or NoBull Solutions because the state had the docket sealed and hidden – a highly unusual move."

He said, "It gives the appearance that the intent was to secretly establish an excuse to arrest them and shut down NoBull Solutions without due process."

He said he was pursuing an emergency motion to reverse the imprisonment order.

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