Civil imprisonment and $300,000 in fines can likely still be avoided if Amos Miller sticks to the plan outlined in new court documents
Miller and his wife Rebecca were scheduled to be back in federal court on Friday with their new lawyer and maybe a new strategy to avoid imprisonment as a party in a civil case and monetary judgment of more than $300,000.
But the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania at Easton before federal Judge Edward G. Smith has decided that won’t be necessary.
Instead, a “second consent decree” filed by Miller’s new attorney, Robert E. Barnes, and government attorneys working on the case, is the current focus of attention.
It is another attempt to enforce the Court’s permanent injunction against Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm. The 2019 injunction prohibits violations of the federal Meat and Poultry Acts.
The first consent decree was entered on April 26, 2020
The new Court documents now call for Miller to pay $30,000 into the Court’s registry within ten days after the “Second Consent Decree” is signed. It says:
“This sum will be used to reimburse: a) Mr.Lapsley’s fees and expenses to date; b) the U.S. Marshall’s Service’s fees/expenses for accompanying Mr. Lapsley on his March 17, 2022 farm site visit; and c) Mr. Lapsley’s ongoing fees and expenses in reporting on compliance with certain terms of this Second Consent Decree and the Second Contempt Sanctions Order.”
Lapsley is an agriculture expert the Court has assigned to the case.
Another $55,065.72 Miller owes USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for the agency investigative work must be paid in two installments. The first $27,543.86 is due Jan. 15, 2023; and the second payment of $27,543,86 must be turned in at the U.S. Attorney’s office by April 15, 2023.
The “show cause” hearing for the higher and harsher penalties that were to be held this Friday (Dec. 16) is being continued and held in abeyance until Miller makes those three payments.
Miiller is being given “an opportunity to show compliance” under his new attorney. “This agreement of the parties on such payment amounts is without prejudice to the United States’ ability, in the event of future non-compliance, to ask the Court to enforce the coercive civil contempt fine amounts held in abeyance and to seek additional compensatory civil contempt sanction,” according to the draft Decree.
Miller, often depicted as a small Amish farmer, has been the target of USDA enforcement actions for several years. He has farming operations in multiple states and his sales club distributes meat and poultry products across state lines.
Miller is based in Bird-in-Hand, an unincorporated community in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. The community has a large Amish and Mennonite population.
There are several moving parts. FSIS has investigative costs that could still be added to Miller’s bill. At the same time, if he were found to be in compliance for a “sufficient period,” the civil concept charges could be reduced.
The new order also gives Miller until Dec. 31, 2022, to dispose of meat and poultry products that were put until seizure by Lapsley and U.S. Marshalls. Those “arrested/seized products” on Miller’s property are limited to personal use, including personal pet food, or by farm workers.
Any Specified Risk Material must be removed and properly disposed of from beef carcasses and arrested beef heads. Miller may not produce pet food for the market but might sell products to a licensed pet food manufacturer approved by FSIS. Any product that remains by De.c 31 must be destroyed.
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