A jury convicted three members of the Costa Mesa religious sect the Piecemakers on charges of obstructing a public officer, operating a food facility without proper permits and refusing to let health inspectors enter the Costa Mesa Piecemakers Country Store.
Orange County prosecutors filed seven charges against Marie Margaret Kolasinski, Douglas Dorsey Follette and Judy Marie Haeger, after an October 2005 incident when the defendants prohibited inspectors and a district attorney's office investigator from entering the Adams Avenue store.
"What happened on Oct. 26, 2005, was really a lengthy, systematic pattern of defiance and an unwillingness to comply with health code regulations that are designed to protect public safety," Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Steiner said.
Piecemaker Country Store representatives were not available for comment.
Prosecutors accused the Piecemakers Country Store managing partners Kolasinski and Follette of running a food facility without a valid health permit. In October 2005, Kolasinski refused to let Orange County Health Agency inspectors inside the restaurant, Steiner said. On Oct. 26, she allegedly grabbed at and attempted to take away a thermometer from a health inspector, Steiner said. Haeger was also charged with obstructing a public officer by using her body to block a hallway, Steiner said.
In 2004, the Orange County Healthcare Agency received a court order for inspection, which they attempted to conduct Oct. 26.
Steiner said the defense told the jury that they felt the laws of the country didn't apply to them. Kolasinski condemned the American government and testified that the health inspectors were Nazis and pedophiles, Steiner said.
"She said she shouldn't have to have her business decisions influenced by health inspectors," Steiner said after the verdict was read Tuesday afternoon.
The three defendants are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 12. They all face a year in prison, plus several thousands of dollars in fines, Steiner said.
During the trial Steiner stressed prosecutors were not going to make it customary to charge restaurant owners over health inspections.
"Since 1992, the county healthcare agency has attempted to work with the defendants unsuccessfully, and it always ended in a vulgar, profane way," Steiner said. "They've verbally threatened in an aggressive way and rejected the inspectors despite years of attempts to work with the defendants in a professional and reasonable way."