HOLLAND, Mich. — Several Michigan legislators held a press conference Monday to blast Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) for jailing a restaurateur but refusing to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) nursing home policy.
Whitmer allowed coronavirus-infected patients to recuperate in nursing homes in 2020, which then spread the virus among elderly residents. One-third of virus-related deaths in the state occurred in nursing homes.
Marlena Hackney, purveyor of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, was arrested early Friday morning by Michigan State Police and left in jail over the weekend after she was denied bond on a contempt of court charge.
Area legislators appeared across the street from a boarded-up Marlena’s Bistro to bring attention to Hackney’s plight. They contrasted it with what they argued was a lack of action on Whitmer’s controversial policy that effectively led to the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents.
“This is shocking. This is disturbing to me,” state Sen. Roger Victory (R), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said of the situation.
Victory said he wanted to know why Hackney was incarcerated without bail and transported 100 miles away to a jail in Lansing.
“A person is being incarcerated for the justification of operating a business,” he said. “I need that question to be answered.
State Rep. Steve Johnson (R) told reporters Nessel should not be focused on jailing Hackney, an immigrant who fled communist Poland as a teenager, but instead, Whitmer’s “nursing home policies that had deadly consequences for Michiganders all over the state of Michigan.”
“What did Marlena do? She tried to operate a business. She tried to make a living for herself. We used to celebrate that in America,” Johnson said.
“But now, they throw you in jail for that, at the same time, refusing to do an investigation on what we know to be one of the worst decisions ever made: to put (coronavirus) patients in nursing homes,” he said.
State Rep. Mary Whiteford (R) said the legislators were there to let restaurant owners “breathe.”
“Let them do what they do best,” she said.
The elected officials were asked if the legislature would be hiring a special prosecutor to investigate Whitmer’s decisions and state Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R) said, “I think all options need to be on the table.”
One reporter asked the group why they were standing by a business owner who “flagrantly broke the rules.”
“Marlena did not violate a law that the legislature passed,” Johnson responded.
“Marlena violated an order issued by an unelected bureaucrat. No one should be able to go to jail because one unelected bureaucrat makes an order,” he said.
The reporter asserted it was “a health code violation,” Victory responded that Hackney complied with the judge’s order, yet she still remained jailed.
Watch the full press conference here: