Michigan restaurant owner who warned against authoritarianism jailed for defying COVID orders

A Michigan restaurant owner who immigrated to the U.S. from then-Communist Poland has been arrested and sentenced to more than 90 days in jail for defying statewide COVID restrictions.

According to state Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, 55, was ordered to surrender to authorities on Thursday but refused to do so. State police picked her up early Friday morning as she traveled to open her eatery, Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria. Reports said she was then driven some 90 miles to the Ingham County jail. 

According to Nessel’s office, Pavlos-Hackney refused to enforce rules on mask-wearing and limits on customer capacity. She remained open even though the state revoked her food license on Jan. 20. 

A judge in Ingham County found Pavlos-Hackney to be in contempt of court before sentencing here.

A day earlier, she told WOOD-TV as she served customers, “We don’t want this country to be a communist regime that’s going to dictate what we can do and what we cannot do.”

“This owner has continued to willfully violate the state’s food laws, public health orders and the order 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,” Nessel said in a statement. 

“MDARD is particularly concerned because the potential exposure happened at a restaurant that refuses to comply with basic COVID-19 measures” as required by state health officials, she continued.

“[Would] there be widespread support for a restaurant whose establishment defied health & safety protocols and customers contracted salmonella, hepatitis A or E. Coli as a result? O/15,000 Michigan residents have died from Covid-19. Can’t understand how or why this is controversial,” Nessel wrote on Twitter accompanying her posted statement.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson reported on Pavlos-Hackney’s arrest during a Friday evening segment, noting that he interviewed her a few days earlier and discussed her situation.

“She warned us that Americans need to fight against authoritarianism like this, or the United States will come to resemble the country she fled decades ago,” Carlson said as he segued into a clip of his previous interview with the restauranteur. 

“We the people, small business owners, like I told you, we have to fight,” Pavlos-Hackney said. “And I will fight for freedom for [the] American people. And I encourage everyone — business owners, other people — stand up and fight for your freedom before it’s gonna be taken away.”

Carlson went on to update viewers regarding Pavlos-Hackney’s arrest, noting she was “taken away in ankle shackles and wrist cuffs.” 

“They grabbed her and they sent her away for longer than people who commit gun crimes in Detroit get,” the host said.

“We’re told she’ll be in jail for 93 days unless she pays a $35,000 fine and the Michigan Board of Health deems it ‘safe’ for her to be released,” he continued. “She’s not gonna pay. She shouldn’t pay.”

Carlson then showed a photo of the restaurant which authorities boarded up and encircled with “closed” signs and yellow tape before blasting “out-of-control” Nessel who he said was “bragging” about Pavlos-Hackney’s arrest in her press release.

The Fox News host went on to say that the court and the state health agency “presented no evidence” to support allegations that Pavlos-Hackney’s actions were a danger and a threat to community health.

“They want you to know that defiance is the real crime,” Carlson said, noting that the Biden administration, meanwhile, is releasing COVID-positive illegal immigrants into American cities.

“But if you try your level best, your hardest, to run a business and do the right thing, you go to jail,” he said.

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Jon Dougherty

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