News Story

Attorney General Wanted Lockdown-Defying Restaurant Owner Arrested Before Going On Fox News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel: ‘We should just have her picked up before she goes on’

After learning that a Holland woman who defied state lockdown orders by keeping her restaurant open might go on Fox News to tell her story, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a March 12, 2021, email to her staff:

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

Restaurant owner Marlena Hackney was arrested by the Michigan State Police seven days later, on March 19.

Nessel sent the email after learning from staffers that Hackney would be interviewed by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy obtained the email exchange after filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of the Attorney General. It had sought documents related to Hackney’s case.

Eileen Whipple, an assistant attorney general, sent an email to Nessel and others in the office, alerting them to Hackney’s planned television appearance.

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

In another email, Nessel asked about any actions officials with the Michigan State Police were planning.

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

Whipple told Nessel and others that their office was telling the police “about this new information.”

Whipple responded to Nessel’s comment about a maximum sentence for Hackney:

“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.”

The Fox News interview with Hackney was broadcast on March 17.

Hackney was arrested by the Michigan State Police on March 19. She was released from jail on March 23.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, released a statement on the emails: “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.”

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.