The Albert Lea business owner who defied state COVID-related restrictions at her wine and coffee bar and failed to show up for a bail hearing last month was arrested Thursday in Iowa.
Lisa Hanson, who was released late Thursday afternoon from jail after posting $2,000 bail, told the Star Tribune that she still plans to speak Saturday at a previously scheduled "Stand for Liberty" rally at an Albert Lea park.
Asked how she felt about being arrested, she said: "If I had done something wrong, I would have deserved it. I have not done anything wrong. I have followed the law on all accounts."
Hanson added that she plans to sue an unspecified number of people for $100,000 each for keeping her in custody for two hours.
Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said Hanson, 56, had been under surveillance by his deputies and Albert Lea police after they discovered she was staying at an Airbnb she had rented in Clear Lake, Iowa, about 35 miles south of Albert Lea.
Freitag said Clear Lake police arrested her about 3 p.m. Thursday as she was out for a walk along the city's namesake lake. Authorities booked her into the Cerro Gordo County jail in Mason City.
"She should have never taken it to this level," said Freitag.
Hanson faces nine criminal misdemeanor charges for opening her Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro in downtown Albert Lea in December and January after Gov. Tim Walz ordered restaurants and bars closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She later violated other restrictions when venues were allowed to partly reopen.
Each criminal charge carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail. Hanson also faces $9,000 in fines in a civil suit filed against her by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Hanson denounced Walz and publicly flaunted her defiance during the time her wine bar was open, including at a march and rally in January attended by more than a hundred supporters in Albert Lea.
She has since closed the bistro, though she said it was only temporary.
When she failed to turn up for a bail hearing on March 10 on the criminal misdemeanor charges, two arrest warrants were issued.
Hanson asserted she was not properly notified of the hearings, a claim disputed by Freitag and City Attorney Kelly Martinez.
Freitag said that while he was on vacation out of state, he spoke with Hanson by phone and told her she could avoid being arrested by turning herself in and posting bond, or by calling the court and getting a new date.
He said she agreed to do one or the other.
When a deputy showed up at her house to take her into custody, she told him that the sheriff had agreed not to arrest her — which the deputy later confirmed with Freitag.
But Hanson told the Star Tribune earlier this month that she had never agreed to turn herself in or to set a new court date.
Deputies who were later sent to her house couldn't find her, and she declined to say where she was.
Freitag's decision not to immediately arrest Hanson led to a confrontation with Martinez, the city attorney, who filed a motion to have the sheriff held in contempt of court.
At a hearing in March, Martinez said Freitag had a duty to arrest Hanson and that he was giving her special treatment.
The sheriff responded that he had discretion on whether to arrest her and reiterated that Hanson had not been truthful with him when she promised to turn herself in or get a new court date.
In her interview with the Star Tribune earlier this month, Hanson set down several conditions that would have to be met before she would turn herself in, and she questioned the legitimacy of the arrest warrants.
Told what she had said, Freitag said that Hanson was in no position to bargain.
"The warrants were invalid according to Minnesota criminal rules of procedure," Hanson said Thursday, a position that is disputed by Martinez and Freitag as well as Joseph Daly, an emeritus professor of law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Hanson has gained considerable support on conservative social media sites, both locally and nationally, and is treated by critics of lockdowns as something of a hero.
Opinion in Albert Lea appears to be sharply divided between supporters and critics, based on interviews conducted this month by the Star Tribune.
Hanson is scheduled to speak Saturday at an outdoor political rally beginning at 2 p.m. in Fountain Lake Park in Albert Lea, an event she has been promoting on her website as a fund raiser.
Others scheduled to speak at the rally include Dr. Scott Jensen, a former state senator from Chaska and a declared Republican candidate for governor in 2022; state Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch; state Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee; and Jake Duesenberg of Lake Elmo, president of Action 4 Liberty. Jensen, a family doctor, has questioned Walz's response to the pandemic.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224