Report: Michigan AG attempted to jail restaurant owner who defied lockdown order to stop Fox News interview

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LANSING, MI – According to reports, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel had tried to orchestrate the arrest of a restaurant owner who allegedly defied lockdown orders after the AG heard that the woman was planning to appear on Fox News for an interview.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of the Attorney General recently regarding the case against Marlena Hackney, a restaurant owner that was arrested by the Michigan State Police on March 19th, 2021.

Hackney was arrested for allegedly defying lockdown orders regarding keeping her restaurant open.

But an email exchange between Attorney General Dana Nessel and some of her staff show that they wanted to have Hackney arrested seven days earlier on March 12th after they’d heard Hackney was going to be appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show for an interview.

The email exchange that carried a subject line of “AG – Heads up: Marlena’s to appear on Fox News with Tucker Carlson Tonight 8 p.m.”, AG Nessel was alerted to the potential of bad press for the state and emailed her colleagues that Hackney needs to be arrested before she appears on the show:

“Do we know her whereabouts? We should just have her picked up before she goes on. This is outrageous.”

Eileen Whipple, an assistant attorney general, was apparently the person who alerted AG Nessel and her other colleagues about Hackney’s slated appearance on Fox News, which further along the email thread, AG Nessel wanted to see Hackney jailed for months since she dared to go on television:

“Should I be prepared to respond to this? I hope she gets the full 93 days for this. (Is that the max for civil contempt or just criminal contempt?)”

AG Nessel’s emails around the subject of Hackney continued from there, asking her colleagues if they knew how quickly Michigan State Police were working to arresting Hackney:

“Does MSP intend to go find her? Or are they planning to wait until next week?”

Assistant AG Whipple had responded to AG Nessel’s inquiry about how long they could keep Hackney in jail for allegedly violating a lockdown order, writing:

“As to the length of potential imprisonment, since this is a coercive civil contempt the Court (as the Court indicated in her Order) can keep her incarcerated until she complies or it becomes impossible for her to comply.”

Despite the scrambling efforts by the AG’s office to have Hackney arrested upon hearing of an impending Fox News interview, Hackney managed to appear on Tucker Carlson’s program and was later arrested on March 19th and released from jail on March 23rd.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office, released a statement responding to the released emails, defending AG Nessel’s effort to try and arrest Hackney before she could appear on television:

“Ms. Pavlos-Hackney willfully violated the state’s food laws, public health orders and orders of the court–a dangerous act that may have exposed dozens of diners and employees to the virus following the discovery that one of Marlena’s customers tested positive for the virus within two days of eating there. Ms. Pavlos-Hackney’s decision to then go on national television and flaunt her noncompliance compromised the state’s ability to protect public safety during a global pandemic and likely emboldened others to break the law.”

This email exchange paints a concerning picture, blurring the lines between an AG’s responsibility to prosecute offenders with desires to persecute those with the propensity to tarnish the local government which employs this AG.

If Hackney hadn’t made it to her scheduled appearance on Fox News, she may have very well been incarcerated for period far longer than 4 days – as the email exchange bore professed yearnings by AG Nessel to punish Hackney for simply attempting to exercise her right to free speech.  

But since Hackney made an appearance on national news, her case and period of incarceration clearly had numerous sets of eyes monitoring the developments.

The context of these email exchanges should cause immense concern, as the emails shows evidence of Michigan’s AG wanting to exact punishment against a citizen with expediency and severity not because of the alleged offense, but because Hackney was planning to go on national television to criticize state actors.

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In other news pertaining to lockdown-related measures in Michigan, a bill was recently passed in May that was veto-proof which offered reprieve to business owners that were hammered with fines over alleged violations of lockdown orders. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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LANSING, MI – After reports and photos circulated of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer violating her own pandemic restrictions regarding group sizes at dining establishments, the Michigan House reportedly passed a veto-proof bill that would refund all COVID-related fines for businesses that made a one-time infringement.

Back on May 23rd, a report originally published by Breitbart news showcased a photo of Governor Whitmer with a group of friends that had pushed together a couple of tables at a bar called the Landshark located in East Lansing.

The photo in question showed Governor Whitmer among at least twelve other people in the photo at this establishment, which was in violation of her restaurant capacity order that imposed a six-person limit on groups dining out together.

Specifically, that order the Michigan governor violated was among an update to the “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” dated May 15th, 2021.

In response to the revelation of Governor Whitmer violating her own orders pertaining to pandemic restrictions and guidelines, she issued the following statement:

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols. Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.”

She also managed to avoid being fined, despite the fact that numerous businesses in her state were subjected to these very sorts of fines for similar infractions.

On May 25th, a veto-proof majority of Michigan representatives passed HB 4501, which is a bill that would refund businesses that were subject to any pandemic related fines so long as it was the business’ first infraction and they took steps to rectify the issue outlined in the fine.

During a house floor speech regarding the bill, Republican Representative Steve Johnson stated the following about why the bill should be passed:

“To highlight the importance of this legislation, I want to tell you a story about how easy it is to violate these orders – how easy it is to get caught on one of these – and why it’s important why we have some mercy here.

“See, there was an individual that wanted to hang out with some friends. And what better place to hang out than at a restaurant? And they’re hanging out at the restaurant, and they made, as what she described, as an ‘honest mistake’ – they pushed some tables together.

“Now the problem with that is, now you’re violating the governor’s social distancing requirements. Now if that would’ve happened to a business in my district, that thousands of dollars of fines on you.

“Well, the good news for this individual is she happens to be the governor of Michigan. No fines. No citations. No penalties. Must be nice.

“Colleagues, the question before you today is should the businesses in our district get the same treatment as the governor. That’s all I’m asking.”

Clearly, the message shared by Rep. Johnson resonated with the House floor, as the bill passed the House in a 74-34 vote in favor of the bill.

HB 4501 has since been referred over to the State Senate’s Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

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