Judge Berates Albert Lea Bistro Owner: ‘You Just Wanted to Make Money During a Global Pandemic,’ Gives Her 90 Days, $1,000 Fine for Violating Gov. Walz’s COVID-19 Indoor Service Ban


ALBERT LEA, Minnesota – The owner of the Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro began her 90-day jail sentence Thursday after a jury found her guilty of violating COVID-19 emergency orders from Democrat Gov. Timothy J.  “Tim” Walz at her Freeborn County District Court trial.

Melissa “Lisa” Hanson represented herself sui juris, while she was prosecuted by Albert Lea’s City Attorney Kelly Martinez on six of the nine misdemeanors charges against her.

All six of the counts were for willfully violating the governor’s November 2020 executive orders, which prohibited serving alcohol indoors.

The jury was selected on Tuesday and the opening arguments were delivered on Wednesday.

Judge Joseph Bueltel

Judge Joseph Bueltel released jurors at or around 2:30 p.m., and they deliberated for roughly 60 minutes on Thursday, reconvening with the court at around 3:40 p.m.

Following the announcement of guilty on all counts, Martinez asked to poll the jury and all of the six jurors affirmed that guilty was their verdict.

Next, Buetel asked the prosecutor for her sentencing recommendation.

Martinez said her recommendation was that the court sentence Hanson to 10 days in jail, a $500 fine, paying the court fees – as well as ordering her to shut down a farewell celebration that some local supporters had planned to take place on Thursday evening at the former location of The Interchange. Martinez also requested that the court give Hanson a one-year probationary period.

The city attorney said to the judge that Hanson failed to appear in court in the past and has shown egregious bad faith during the trial.

Hanson believes the law does not apply to her and she engaged in unlawful conduct to this day, she said.

The owner of the wine and coffee bistro was an ongoing public safety risk, she said.

Given her opportunity to respond, Hanson said Martinez was wrong about her willingness to participate in the legal process.

She had indeed showed up for every court date, with the exception of a single date for which she had not received the court summons, she said.

Hanson also said she objected to the claim that she was a public safety risk and said that as a first-time offender, jail time is not appropriate for her. “There’s no reason to put a person like me behind bars. Just because I have a passion for liberty and freedom doesn’t mean I should be put behind bars.”

Martinez said to the judge Hanson’s statements were unequivocally false.

When Hanson and Martinez were finished, Bueltel said in detail for about 20 minutes Hanson was willfully ignorant of Minnesota laws and executive orders and went into detail explaining them to her.

“You were a public risk because you kept your business open,” the judge said.

Hanson was like a career criminal and a drug or alcohol offender, he said, and there was only sentence he felt was appropriate would be to cause restraint both to keep Hanson from acting like this again and to stop others from following suit.

Bueltel, who was appointed to the bench in 2002 by Reform Party Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, said Hanson took advantage of the COVID-19 restaurant shutdowns by being the only store with her doors open.

“You sure played them for the fool, didn’t you?” he said. “You just wanted to make money during a global pandemic.”

Bueltel barely concealed his personal animus against Hanson and told the restaurant owner he was going to teach her a lesson. “You don’t want to recognize our law. I want to reinforce that the law does apply to you. I want to send a message to the community that executive orders are law.”

In addition to the 90 days in jail, the judge fined Hanson $1,000.

When Hanson asked for a more detailed explanation of what the sentencing would look like, Bueltel said: “You’re your own counsel, so figure it out.”

Hanson has yet to be tried for the remaining three misdemeanors, two additional counts of violating emergency orders, and one count of public nuisance. Hanson could spend up to nine months in jail and be fined an additional $3,000 for those charges.

As Hanson was led away by deputies following the sentencing, she raised her hand and stated, “Liberty and freedom.”

The case is Melissa Hanson v. the State of Minnesota, No. 24-CR-21-137 in Freeborn County District Court, Minnesota.

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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].




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48 Thoughts to “Judge Berates Albert Lea Bistro Owner: ‘You Just Wanted to Make Money During a Global Pandemic,’ Gives Her 90 Days, $1,000 Fine for Violating Gov. Walz’s COVID-19 Indoor Service Ban”

  1. rick

    It’s disheartening to see that her “peers” could find her guilty. Some sheep there besides this judge being a complete…..bad word goes here…..

  2. Kenneth Laursen


  3. Lyn

    You are not alone this Christmas, Melissa. I, and millions more are with you, in our thoughts and prayers. There will come a time when these insufferable bastards of evil will have to answer for their crimes against humanity, just as they did at Nuremburg.

    The world belongs to all of us. The red, the yellow, the black,, the white, the brown. we are all mortal and if we are to survive as a civilization we must all stand together against the 1 percenters attempting mass genocide and economic starvation. In the final analysis, this world DOES NOT belong to just them. We are ALL mortal and we all cherish our children’s future and the air we breathe. Thank you for your courage and your integrity a thousand fold. In a country dying of fear and apathy in the face of this onslaught of evil, you are a blood transfusion.

    Tu Ne Cede Malis, sed contra audentior ito! Godspeed, Lyn

  4. Jimsey

    Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, etc made billions of $$$- that’s perfectly OK. The judge got paid all through the lockdowns so no problem for him. Amazon is literally in the stratosphere. Corruption is rampant in all levels of the government. Executive orders are unconstitutional. The tyrant judge thinks justice is served because Melissa Hanson committed the (non) crime of trying to earn a living.Tyranny this way comes…

  5. tonyrome

    The toadies let the criminals run wild and arrest innocent people.

    1. Sam Johnson

      Amen to that!!!!! They let the big business stay open as they are labeled “necessary”. What a load of crap!!!!!

  6. JdL

    That smug, sanctimonious thug of a judge the “honorable” Joseph Bueltel is a perfect poster boy for what’s wrong with America today. Going about one’s business, weighing and accepting the risks and knowing that prospective customers will do the same, is NOT a crime! Locking someone up for doing that IS.

  7. […] The judge also compared Hanson, who will almost certainly lose her business, to a “career criminal and drug or alcohol offender,” according to The Minnesota Sun. […]

  8. Fake name

    Will comments be posted on this article?
    Absolutely shameful state. Despotic globohomo is going for the kill

  9. Susan


  10. Shannon

    Governor Walz is drunk on power, and this judge obviously suffers from judge’s syndrome. This is a disgusting display of overreach. If WaMart can remain open, why can’t she? Everyone has to support themselves, and entrepreneurs don’t get government handouts like unemployment.

  11. Nick

    Sieg Hiel
    It’s no surprise to see such pompous arrogance from a low level judge.
    Especially in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Minnesota

  12. Ben Delaid

    I moved out of the leftist hell-hole of Minnesota 25 years ago. Best thing I ever did. Politics in that state is driven by the idiots in St. Paul and Minneapolis – and I guess there are a couple bottom-feeders down in Albert Lea, too. This judge is perfect for Minnesota. He’s a fraud just like COVID, Walz and the Democrat Party. No surprise that world champion conspiracy theorist Jesse “The Body” Ventura appointed him. It takes one to know one.

  13. 666 Joe

    Minnesota SUCKS

  14. Gunnery Sergeant Roy Rogers

    Minnesotastan = Do what we say or else

  15. Suckmydick

    Why is this POS of a judge still have a job? He should be disbarred immediately.

  16. Cubert

    Follow this judge everywhere he goes. No Liberty? No peace!!!

  17. Alice Smith

    This judge needs to be thrown off the bench. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.

  18. Go to hell

    You keep referencing the law. A mandate is not a law

  19. The Judge is lowlife scum. The restaurant owner is trying to earn a living. There should NEVER have been any lockdowns. Immoral and abominable. The jurors are scared out of their wits for nothing. Not realizing that destruction of GDP leads to the destruction of life far far worse than this virus. Pathetic. Thank God I lived in a state that didn’t practice such witch hunts.

    1. Janice Leinweber

      I agree and this crap is a violation of individual rights to earn money and support themselves.
      It seems to me too many judges have put their heads up the wrong way and they can’t see the sunshine!
      I agree with the above comments. Talk about government over-reach. Fire the judges.

  20. Fred

    It’s Minnesota. They have no other cases worth trying in court.

  21. Noneya

    If the people of Minnesota do not protest outside this Unconstitutional Maniacs house day and night until he releases this woman, they all deserve and will most likely will end up locked up themselves. All it takes is an executive order that you cannot go outside your house or any mandate by the many Tyrants in our nation and you will find yourself thrown in their gulag.

  22. Steve Hanchett

    I assume the honorable judge will have the management of Wal-Mart and Lowe’s before his bench to berate and imprison as well because he believes in equality under the law. I’m also certain he had foregone any income during this period of pandamania since that’s the punishment he believes is adequate for small business owners.

  23. Lesko Judge

    Executive orders are law? Then why do we have a legislative branch? If EOs are laws, the legislative branch is nothing more than a suggestion committee for the governor.

    1. Bay Goy

      This Judge is a piece of garbage, just like most of Minnesota. Holding a small business owner to a higher standard than Walmart and Lowes is reprehensible! He should be removed from the bench immediately with this disgusting display of overreach!!!

  24. Kevin

    “You just wanted to make money during a global pandemic.”

    So can we assume that this bald-headed taxsucking buffoon of a ‘judge’ refused his paychecks during the pandemic… so that no one could accuse HIM of wanting to make money during a global pandemic…????

  25. Sam Segal

    I would have told the judge to go f-ck himself. No doubt that would have led to a charge of contempt, but one must stand up against these worthless Covid bastards.

  26. David

    I applaud Judge Bueltel’s decision to toss Melissa Hanson in jail for 90 days. For riffraff such as Melissa Hanson to think she has a right to provide for herself and her family is truly unconscionable and selfish.

    Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, and other despots would vigorously and enthusiastically applaud your decision, Judge Bueltel.

    You stand along side the great tyrants of history.

    My sincerest congratulations, Comrade Bueltel!

  27. Marcello1099

    I hope the judge gets a malignant, inoperable brain tumour, goes deaf, dumb and blind. Then his wife gets metastatic breast cancer and they slice the filthy butch up like a side of beef. May the judge and his entire family die from the most virulent form of metastatic cancer imaginable, wasting away in a sea of their own vomit, puss, blood, urine and feces. Die, you mother phŷckeen kôckzúcker, die a thousand deaths.

  28. Dino

    Get out of blue areas before you are jailed or killed in one. .

  29. Zeke308

    “Judge.” Sure.

  30. Zeke308

    Joseph Bueltel is a loathsome, verminous bit of excrement.

    “Judge.” Right. Morally bankrupt, faithless tunnel-dweller. Evil.

  31. MisterGoldiloxx

    Another Patriot railroaded by the true pandemic…Big Government.

  32. Wayne

    so judge joseph you go another year and half without a paycheck and see how you want to “make money”

  33. William Wallace

    What an absolute, vile, tyrannical piece of dung this judge is! You are a disgrace to whatever is left of our justice system. He deserves one of the lower pits of hell and I hope he rots there. How dare he abuses a small business woman forced to shut down just because she did not want to go bankrupt from legal fees! Sic Semper Tyrannis you piece of scum!

  34. Wayne

    There were no particulars in mask use, standard of mask or anything else including but not limited to…. long term effecrs of wearing a mask for more tgan 1/2 hour. This judge is a communist moron as is Walz!!! The fight is on!!

  35. zimmer

    Are there trials coming for the BLM belligerents? Those who failed to heed the executive order?

  36. Steve Moss

    Tyrannous and “Arbitrary rules are never instituted for the benefit of those who must follow them.”
    Did George Floyd memorial service violate Minnesota’s coronavirus order?

  37. Joe Mckinney

    Lol, public risk? Fuckin hypocrite judge is a risk to the entire population!
    Oh wait rules for thee, not for me! Disbarment the frapping bastard!
    Enforce at least 1
    Thousands of other laws and imprisonment to make the public safer!
    Show us your vaccination! Show proof they work!
    Remember: masks to be worn so you dont get it?
    Natural immunity?
    Why get the jab, if still have to comply with restrictions?
    Kiss my rebellious ass fuckin democraphead!

  38. Richard McCargar

    In my opinion, this is a corrupt judge supporting a corrupt system that allows big business to operate while destroying the middle class to enforce the great reset desired by the World Economic Forum

  39. David Krieg

    What a miscarriage of justice! In this state, she’d get less time if she chose to burn down buildings and jack cars !