ALBERT LEA, Minnesota – Monday was the scheduled start to the trial against Minnesota restaurant owner, Melissa “Lisa” Hanson, who is charged with nine misdemeanors after she opened her restaurant in violation of Governor Tim Walz’s (D) COVID orders in 2020.
Hanson, the owner of an Albert Lea restaurant, The Interchange, opened in violation of the 2020 pandemic orders saying that she needed to either open up for business or close her doors for good due to the financial strain she was under following Walz’s first lockdown order.
The Interchange opened in violation of Walz’s pandemic orders on December 16, 2020 as was announced in a Facebook post by Hanson: “ANNOUNCEMENT! Dear Patrons, As the owner of The Interchange, I have decided to open for IN-DOOR DINING beginning WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16TH in defiance of the governor’s illegal shutdowns. According to the 14th Amendment: as a United States citizen, I have the right to life, liberty, and property. This means I have the right to legally operate my business and earn a living doing so. Thank you for your support in these very trying times. Lisa Hanson – Owner & Proprietor.”
According to the prosecution representing the state of Minnesota, Albert Lea City Attorney Kelly Martinez, agents and those in charge of enforcing Walz’s peacetime emergency declaration visited Hanson’s establishment several times and witnessed patrons inside, which was in violation of the orders. Walz gave the orders under Minnesota Statute Chapter 12 which says,
Orders and rules promulgated by the governor under authority of section 12.21, subdivision 3, clause (1), when approved by the Executive Council and filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, have, during a national security emergency, peacetime emergency, or energy supply emergency, the full force and effect of law.
Hanson is now being charged with eight counts of violating emergency powers and one count of being a public nuisance. Hanson has been representing herself while being tried in Minnesota’s Third District Court in Freeborn County by Judge Joseph Bueltel.
On Monday, during what was supposed to be the first day of Hanson’s trial, pretrial arguments were still being wrapped up and the courtroom was full of Hanson’s supporters. Hanson requested the ability to have an administrative assistant sit at the bar with her, but her request was denied by the judge.
About one minute before the pretrial proceedings were going to start, Martinez, the attorney representing the State of Minnesota filed an amended criminal complaint against Hanson. While Hanson wanted to take the time to read over the document for herself before the court proceeded on the amended complaint, the judge overruled her objections.
During the pretrial motions on Monday, the judge ruled that Hanson is not permitted to use the Minnesota Constitution or the United States Constitution in her defense, which Hanson said she believed was denying her due process.
Things in the courtroom got slightly heated when Martinez asked that the judge hold Hanson in contempt of court if Hanson continued to object to things that she believed the judge had already ruled on. Hanson also took issue with what she called “ad hominem attacks” from the prosecution after Martinez appeared to imply that Hanson was unknowledgeable and ignorant concerning court proceedings.
The pretrial proceedings finished at the end of the day on Monday and jury selection is expected to take place on Tuesday.
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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Lisa Hanson” by The Interchange “The Interchange” by The Interchange/McKenzie Hanson Photography.