A writ of habeas corpus was filed on Tuesday in the United States District Court of Minnesota against two sheriffs in charge of handling the incarceration of Melissa “Lisa” Hanson. Hanson, who represented herself sui juris, was charged and convicted last Thursday with six counts of violating executive orders and sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for opening her restaurant during Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) COVID emergency shutdown.
According to the Cornell Law dictionary, “federal courts can use the writ of habeas corpus to determine if a state’s detention of a prisoner is valid.” They explain that the habeas “proceeds as a civil action against the State agent (usually a warden) who holds the defendant in custody.”
The habeas corpus calls for the immediate release of Hanson, saying that the Sheriff in charge of her needs to “show cause” in order to continue detaining her. Hanson was initially booked into the Freeborn County Jail, but then was moved to the Steele County Jail the day after her sentencing.
Monday morning, following obtaining her signature on a writ of habeas corpus, Hanson was moved back to Freeborn County Jail, which made the original writ of habeas corpus, filed for Steele County, invalid. A second was filed on Tuesday, involving both counties of Steele and Freeborn, rather than just Steele. The circumstances surrounding her transfer are unknown. The habeas corpus now lists both Sheriff Kurt Freitag, with Freeborn County, and Sheriff Lon Thiele, with Steele County.
The document provides “reasonable cause” for why they are applying for relief in a Federal Court, citing Judge Joseph Bueltel’s alleged “appearance of bias” as one reason. The habeas corpus reads, “Judge Joseph Bueltel would not recuse himself as disqualified for violations of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct on the record for the appearance of bias and for not upholding the law and applying it impartially and for denial of procedural and substantive due process rights.”
The document then outlines the ways in which Hanson attempted to rectify the situation prior to her conviction, saying that she filed notices of official misconduct and brought her concerns to the Third Judicial District’s chief judge and the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The habeas corpus alleges that one instance of Bueltel’s bias could be seen in several statements he made. The habeas corpus reads, “In open court and after the jury rendered its verdict, Judge Bueltel made a personal claim in open court not based on any fact in the record that I was willfully ignorant of Minnesota laws and executive orders.”
It also explains that Hanson was “immediately remanded into custody of the Sheriff without due process of a presentence investigation to establish the reasonableness of a sentence prior to an order declaring the sentence.”
Keith Haskell, an investigator with the National Action Task Force (NATF), who has been working to assist Hanson throughout the process, told The Minnesota Sun that he wants to see the judge removed and the city attorney who handled the case disbarred, due to the alleged misconduct outlined in the writ of habeas corpus. NATF is a national group made up of investigators that “work in concert with local and federal authorities when and where it is appropriate.”
The case is Melissa Hanson v. Sheriff Kurt Freitag and Sheriff Lon Thiele, No. 21-CV-002651-001 in United States District Court, District of Minnesota.
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