Double H farmers enter plea deal

Double H farmers enter plea deal

Before Jean Rinaldi and Richard Bean could plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of selling uninspected meat, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Enforcement Officer F.C. Lamneck was called to testify to the convoluted fracas that led to the farmers’ dramatic arrest September 21. That arrest resulted in 11 misdemeanor charges each and a felony intent to defraud charge for Bean. But Lamneck told the Charlottesville Circuit Court February 20 that he had done everything he could to keep the arrest from happening.

Double H farmers Jean Rinaldi and Richard Bean were “begged to comply” by state agriculture officer F.C. Lamneck, he testified in court.
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Despite his repeated warnings—including one in 2006 that Bean and Rinaldi signed promising to voluntarily comply—the Double H farmers continued to sell uninspected meat at the Nellysford Farmer’s Market and Charlottesville City Market. Lamneck testified that he had once overheard Rinaldi shooing a customer away at the Charlottesville farmer’s market and encouraging the prospective buyer to return after he had left.

“They were playing me for a fool,” he said on the stand, his voice nearly trembling, “by selling some of this meat.”

As the officer described the lead-up to their arrest, he protested his depiction by the media as an overzealous persecutor of the local food movement (“I begged the man to comply,” Lamneck said after the hearing of Bean), recounting the time he spotted the yellow Double H van parked outside Shebeen restaurant and then a body bag being carried inside. After Lamneck stopped in to take a look, he discovered a black market pig. (Summarily, Shebeen was forced to cut up the hog and put bleach on it, thereby “denaturing” it.)

That was on September 6. Two weeks later, Lamneck showed up at the farm in Lovingston with state and local police officers in tow. They found Bean in his makeshift butchery and promptly handcuffed him. Rinaldi was mowing the lawn but was soon placed in a squad car herself.

Unless you count the loss of their home computer and the emotional toll from the arrest and subsequent prosecution, the two farmers have escaped relatively unscathed. In Nelson County, where they were up against four misdemeanor charges each, they only pleaded guilty to one and received a year’s probation with a list of conditions. The judge there actually encouraged them to seek legislative remedy.

In Charlottesville, Bean and Rinaldi pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor each, two years of probation and a similar list of conditions. Judge Edward Hogshire, however, had no consoling words.

“It’s extremely important to fully comply,” he said. “I hope this is the last time we have this difficulty.”

Bean’s attorney, Steve Rosenfield, disclosed that the farmers have outfitted their own facility so that it is now up to regulatory snuff (they can process but not slaughter their hogs on site). As Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Claude Worrell surmised afterwards, if Bean and Rinaldi are to have any trouble, it will likely come from the plea’s mandate that 75 percent of their meat products be sold to household customers. Only a quarter can be doled out to restaurants. The Organic Butcher recently started stocking Double H pork, and Orzo now uses the resulting sausages.

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