UPDATE: Jury finds Hershberger 'not guilty' on 3 counts - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Jury finds Hershberger 'not guilty' on 3 counts

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BARABOO (WKOW) -- A jury found Vernon Hershberger not guilty of selling raw milk without the proper licenses, but guilty of violating a food holding order.

Jury members began deliberating the case at about 8:45 p.m. Friday evening, and came to a decision after 1:00 a.m. early Saturday morning.

They found the Loganville dairy farmer not guilty on three counts of failing to be licensed as a raw milk retail eatery, milk producer, and dairy plant.

The judge says that sentencing for the fourth count -- violating a food holding order -- will happen at a later date.

Stay with 27 News and wkow.com for the latest on this trial.

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BARABOO (WKOW) -- Jury deliberations began Friday night in the trial of a Sauk County farmer accused of illegally selling raw milk and dairy products.

Jury members received the case at about 8:45 p.m.

Earlier in the fifth day of his trial, Vernon Hershberger testified in his own defense.

Once he got on the stand, his attorney Glenn Reynolds asked if he was nervous. "Yes I am, it's been a long three years," Hershberger told the court.

The Longanville dairy farmer is accused of selling raw milk without the proper licenses. The State claims Hershberger maintained a retail dairy store on his farm but Hershberger counters that only family and members could access the food and milk. Hershberger testified that members signed a contract for partial ownership.

Hershberger told the court labels on food items on the farm didn't mean they were sold to the general public. "The main purpose of the label was that so members coming onto the farm and wanting to get food have an idea how, maybe a two quart jar of a certain product, how much equity that is taking away from the farm."

Hershberger testified there were no set prices. He said some members paid more, some paid less, and some paid nothing at all.

"If they're falling on hard times and they have children to feed and they need the food, and I can't deny them that," Vernon's wife Erma Hershberger testified Friday.

"If people want to work on the farm to get the food, they can do that to a certain extent," Vernon Hershberger testified about compensation.

Raw milk advocates from around the country have filled the courtroom for five days in a row, in a show of support for Hershberger and his family, hoping the verdict will set a precedent.

Court is expected to go late into Friday evening. Both sides will make their closing arguments before the jury begins deliberating.

Stay with 27 News and wkow.com for the latest on this trial.

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BARABOO (WKOW) -- The attorney for Vernon Hershberger tells WKOW Channel 27 the defendant will be the final witness he calls, but that he does expect Hershberger to take the stand and testify in his own defense Friday.

Hershberger is being tried for selling milk without proper licenses, but raw milk advocates have tried to turn the case into a referendum on raw milk and any health benefits it offers.

27 News reporter Danielle Lama has been covering the trial in Sake County court this week and will have live reports tonight in 27 News at 5 and 6. 

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