Emails obtained by Michigan Capitol Confidential Friday show state Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) sought to arrest a defiant business owner prior to a scheduled appearance on Fox News.
Marlena Hackney, purveyor of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, repeatedly defied orders to shutter her business and made frequent appearances on cable news programs and local media outlets to denounce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) coronavirus orders.
A March 12 email from Nessel to her communications director and several aides indicated they knew Hackney was going to give an interview to host Tucker Carlson that evening.
“Do we know her whereabouts? We should just have her picked up before she goes on. This is outrageous,” Nessel wrote.
“Should I be prepared to respond to this?” Nessel wrote to aides in another email. “I hope she gets the full 93 days for this. (Is that the max for civil contempt or just criminal contempt?)”
Hackney, an immigrant who fled communist Poland as a teenager, had originally been charged with a misdemeanor for refusing to close her establishment, and then was cited for contempt of court.
“Does MSP (Michigan State Police) intend to go find her? Or are they planning to wait until next week?” Nessel asked in another communication.
Hackney was ultimately arrested on March 19 as she drove to her business before the sun was up. Breitbart News was on location the morning troopers picked her up.
Hundreds rallied outside the restaurant over the weekend before Hackney was released from the Ingham County jail on March 23, some 100 miles away from her home.
Meshawn Maddock, vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party, told the crowd, “Whitmer’s policies can kill seniors and lie about it, and Nessel just writes it off. But if Marlena in Holland serves a sandwich, she’s got to serve time.”
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, communications director for Nessel, defended the attempt to arrest her before the Fox News appearance, claiming it would “likely emboldened others to break the law.”
After Hackney’s arrest, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported it likely violated court guidelines:
The Michigan State Police then transported Hackney roughly 100 plus miles to the Ingham County Jail on a civil contempt-of-court warrant issued by the 55th District Court, which is in Ingham county. But Hackney’s offense does not appear to meet the court’s guidelines for arrests during a pandemic.
These guidelines recommend that individuals be arrested if they are wanted for serious felonies, including assaults, criminal sexual conduct, and all offenses subject to life in prison. They also recommend arrests for individuals suspected of violating conditions of a bond or probation, or failing to appear in court when required for serious offenses like these. Arrests are not recommended for property offenses, misdemeanor warrants, and failure to appear in court or pay fines and costs related to minor offenses.
“Putting Michiganders in jail for exercising their own constitutional rights, and speaking out against their government is un-American,” gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon (R) said in a statement.
“Attorney General Nessel’s comment clearly shows her use of state law enforcement to target Ms. Hackney for speaking out against Whitmer’s government,” she said.
“This is the Chinese Communist Party-style police state tyranny. It is unacceptable in the United States of America.”