News Story

Arrest Of Lockdown-Defying Restaurant Owner Violated Court Guidelines

An alphabet soup of agencies and departments was mobilized to put the owner of Marlena’s Bistro behind bars

The arrest of a Holland restaurant owner for violating state lockdown orders appears to have gone against court guidelines issued for police on the detention of nonviolent suspects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marlena Hackney is the owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland. On March 19 she was arrested in Holland by the Michigan State Police during a 5:45 a.m. traffic stop. Police officials said the arrest occurred after the department received a request for assistance from the state attorney general’s office.

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.

When a jail refuses to accept a suspect police have arrested, the individual is released. It seems very unlikely that the Michigan State Police would order the transport of an individual for 100 plus miles without knowing in advance whether the jail would accept the person.

Admissions policies at the Ingham County Jail are set by the county sheriff’s office. Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth did not respond to two emails asking whether Hackney’s incarceration violated the jail’s guidelines for admitting nonviolent inmates during the pandemic. His office instead forwarded arrest guidelines issued by the 55th District Court.

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.

The court’s order does not, however, supersede any law enforcement officer’s discretion in whether to arrest an individual on any warrant in the interest of public safety.

In November 2020, Michigan’s state health department ordered all restaurants to close for indoor dining, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases. Hackney did not close her restaurant, and the state agriculture department revoked her license, citing a state food law. The state filed a complaint in the 55th District Court, which issued a temporary restraining order and a bench warrant for Hackney’s arrest.

According to Michigan State Police spokeswoman Lori Dougovito, “The Attorney General’s Office asked MSP to assist with the arrest” of Hackney.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said in an email that the attorney general did not have a role in the arrest.

“Judge Wanda Stokes issued a warrant for her arrest because she wanted the person taken into custody. We didn’t have a role in that so you reach out to the judge, MSP (the arresting agency) or Ingham County. Sorry I can’t be of more help to you,” Rossman-McKinney stated in the email.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.