Piecemakers still defiant

Even as they face charges, members of a Christian sect vow to stand firm against health laws

Daily Pilot (CA)/November 129, 2005
By Lauren Vane

Immediately after appearing in court Monday on criminal charges of operating without a proper permit and blocking a health inspection, members of a Costa Mesa Christian sect vowed they would continue to serve food in their Country Store tea room.

Seven members of the Piecemakers, a Christian group that operates a craft store and restaurant at 1720 Adams Ave. in Costa Mesa, were arrested when they refused entrance to county health inspectors during a court-ordered inspection on Oct. 26.

The District Attorney's office filed charges against only four members Monday.

"There's no stopping us. They can burn my place down, but they can't take my soul," said Marie Kolasinski, the 84-year-old founder of the Piecemakers.

Kolasinski is charged with operating a food business without the necessary permit, refusing admittance to inspectors and obstructing health inspectors.

Douglas Follette is charged with obstruction and operating without a permit. Judy Haeger is charged with refusing admittance and obstruction. Kathleen Needham, who did not appear in court Monday, is charged with refusing inspection and obstruction.

The three who were present in court elected to continue their arraignment to Dec. 15. Orange County Superior Court Judge Brett London issued a $500 bench warrant for Needham for failing to appear in court.

Needham didn't come to court because she was "freaked out" and scared, Kolasinski said.

"It got too hot in the kitchen," Kolasinski said.

The Piecemakers have not complied with an Orange County Health Care Agency order to cease all unapproved food preparation and food service.

They do not have the required permit to prepare and serve food on-site, Orange County Health Care officials said. The Piecemakers' permit allows them to sell only prepackaged food.

Thousands of Orange County restaurants comply with health regulations, and the Piecemakers are not exempt from those requirements, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Steiner.

"Our main focus is that ... these defendants, for one reason or another, feel that they're above the law," Steiner said.

The Piecemakers have had a long and troubled history with the Orange County Health Care Agency. They have repeatedly refused health inspections because they believe their customers are the only inspectors they need.

"Under God I'm guilty of nothing," Kolasinski said.

The state health and safety code requires that a licensed establishment, such as the Country Store, allow health department officials to conduct periodic inspections.

Members of the Piecemakers and their supporters crowded outside the courtroom at the Harbor Justice Center Monday. Holding signs and standing in a semicircle, the Piecemakers quietly protested the legal enforcement of health codes. "We would like to continue our business.... That's all we ask," said Follette, one of those charged.

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