State asks court to raise daily fines against restaurant owner

“The threats, the lies, the bullying that is happening to small businesses every day … [the state is] harassing small business owners every day."

Screenshot from YouTube/ Larvita McFarquhar's Facebook Live

State officials are now seeking additional penalties against Larvita McFarquhar, a defiant restaurant owner in Lynd, Minnesota, who is being fined $250 per day for remaining open.

A Ramsey County judge ordered McFarquhar to close her restaurant earlier this month and comply with Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 executive orders. But she refused and was found in contempt of court, which comes with a $250 daily fine for non-compliance.

Court documents filed Tuesday show the state government is now seeking “further contempt sanctions” against McFarquhar. Even though a Minnesota statute says “fines may not exceed $250” per day, “the Court has inherent authority to craft a larger fine for each and every occurrence of a violation in order to induce compliance,” according to a memorandum filed by the Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office is not going to seek jail time for McFarquhar at this time, but if she continues to refuse compliance, the memorandum states the court “has statutory authority to secure compliance through conditional confinement.” This means the court could jail her until she gives in to the executive order to shut down her restaurant.

McFarquhar posted a Facebook Live video of her reaction to and explanation of the government’s latest action.

“The threats, the lies, the bullying that is happening to small businesses every day … [the state is] harassing small business owners every day,” she said.

“They’re saying that they could … take me and have me go work at a work farm or a workhouse for six months. So, they want me to stop working at my own business, to enslave me, jail me, so that I can go work for the state, I guess, I don’t know.”

McFarquhar was referring here to the state’s usage of a statute that claims if she is found guilty by the court, she can be “punished … by imprisonment in the county jail, workhouse, or work farm for not more than six months, or by both.”

In McFarquhar’s video, she also claimed the government is going after the funds she raised for her legal fees.

“This is the country that we’re living in. I’m out here trying to stand for my constitution, my country that I love, stand for my daughters, and just make a living. And they want to penalize small businesses.”

She encouraged viewers to reach out to small businesses, who are all scared and don’t know what to do.

“We the people have to come together … stand on the Constitution, stand on the word, stand on Yahweh God, because those are the only things we can rely on. We clearly see we can’t rely on the judges,” McFarquhar said.

A hearing is not yet scheduled in this case.

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