Image: Marie Kolasinski
Ric Francis  /  AP
Marie Kolasinski, right, founder of the Piecemakers, a small religious sect that runs a country store, attorney Joe Donahue, left, and Doug Follette, discuss problems the group has had with health inspectors in November in Costa Mesa, Calif.
updated 1/12/2007 8:49:44 PM ET 2007-01-13T01:49:44

The 85-year-old leader of a religious sect known as the Piecemakers was sentenced to jail Friday for refusing to let health inspectors into a tearoom that the group runs.

Marie Kolasinski, who had refused the inspections by saying the rule of God was greater than the rule of man, was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing hearing to begin a six-day sentence, said her attorney, Joseph Donahue. She will be on probation for three years after her release, he said.

Two other members of the group, Doug Follette and Judy Haeger, were sentenced to three years of probation. They must also complete 30 days of work collecting trash along California highways, Donahue said. The three also owe a combined $9,074 in fines, he said.

"I don't know what other outcome there could have been in this case," he said. "I know that the Piecemakers that were there were unhappy Marie had to do time."

Members of the Piecemakers said after the hearing that they were furious that their elderly leader was in jail and said they had been "sold down the river" by their attorney.

"God wins in the end. Good comes out of everything, and Marie will say the same thing. She's put Christ first her whole life, and she puts us first," said Follette in a telephone interview.

The spat between the Piecemakers and the county dates back to the early 1990s. Since then, the group has resisted health inspectors who accuse them of selling unpackaged foods like homemade sandwiches and soup without a permit.

In 2000, the Piecemakers were ordered to cease all food sales and placed on probation. Since then, undercover inspectors have observed continuing violations, according to testimony at the 2 1/2-day trial that ended in November.

Rowdy confrontation in the past
In October 2005, inspectors arrived unannounced with a court order, prompting a rowdy confrontation recorded on a 12-minute video taped by the Piecemakers. Kolasinski and two others were arrested after wrestling with police officers and unleashing a barrage of profanity so extreme that one officer asked Kolasinski: "Do you kiss your kids with that mouth?"

Health workers testified it was the first time they had to obtain a court order for a routine inspection after nearly three decades of policing 12,000 restaurants in Orange County.

Under the terms of the sentencing agreement, the Piecemakers also must follow all health code rules in Orange County and get a permit if they want to continue to sell unpackaged food.

"They'll probably fine us if we fart," Follette said.

Kolasinski founded the Piecemakers in 1978, when, she says, God spoke directly to her as she was walking by her swimming pool. The religious sect, which she has described as "born-again Christians who have finished their walk to the full Gospel," has 26 members who share four houses.

Together, they run a labyrinthine craft-and-quilt store, tearoom, small candy shop, construction company, hair salon and crafts school that offers lessons in everything from doll-making to Brazilian embroidery. They also print an annual calendar that includes quilting patterns and run a soup kitchen for the homeless.

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