Hanson files in federal court for release from ‘unlawful’ detention

Published 7:05 pm Sunday, December 19, 2021

The owner of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro, jailed earlier this month after a jury found her guilty of violating the state’s emergency executive orders tied to COVID-19, filed a petition last week in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to be released from custody.

Lisa Hanson petitioned the court for a writ of habeas corpus for what she says is unlawful detention in both Freeborn and Steele counties.

Hanson was taken into custody Dec. 9 after a jury convicted her of six misdemeanor counts of violating an emergency executive order that required restaurants be closed for in-person dining to limit the spread of COVID-19 in late 2020 and early 2021. 

Judge Joseph Bueltel sentenced her to 90 days in jail, along with a $1,000 fine plus court costs. Hanson’s filing said she was transferred to the Steele County jail Dec. 10 for processing and detention of at least 20 Immigration and Customs Enforcement inmates. She returned to Freeborn County the morning of Dec. 13.

Hanson throughout her case had asked that Bueltel be recused for allegedly violating the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct for the appearance of bias and for applying the law impartially. The 3rd District Chief Judge at the time, Jodi Williamson, denied the request.

Hanson has also argued she was denied her due process rights under the state and federal constitutions and questioned Gov. Tim Walz’s authority to enforce an executive order over private sector businesses or private conduct of people. Bueltel had ruled the executive orders had the “full force and effect of law.”

Hanson said she thinks City Attorney Kelly Martinez did not have authority to charge for alleged violation of executive orders not enacted as state law and argued regarding the instructions given to the jury before deliberating on the case.  

Hanson said Bueltel displayed his personal dislike against her in his statements made after the jury rendered its verdict and when he sentenced her to nine times longer in jail and two times more than the fine than what was recommended by Martinez. 

She requested the sheriff to immediately release her from custody until the federal court makes its final determination that the custody is unlawful. She also asked for a declaratory judgment that the governor’s declaration of peacetime emergency usurped his power granted by law. 

She asked the court to vacate the judgment and for her charges to be expunged and that her other criminal case, consisting of three additional charges, be dismissed. 

She asked that all bail monies and expenses made by herself and her husband while “unlawfully incarcerated” be returned. 

Finally, she recommended the disbarment of both Bueltel and Martinez from the practice of law.