Confederate flag-flying official acquitted; attorney calls charges "stack of bullshit"
Flying a Confederate flag is one thing. Being a criminal is another.
Yesterday, a Dakota County jury acquitted former West St. Paul City Council member Ed Hansen of the "misconduct of a public officer or employee" and disorderly conduct.
But according to his attorney, Nathan Hansen (the two aren't related), Ed's acquittal isn't the real story. Instead, the interesting thing is that such ridiculous charges were brought against him in the first place.
Almost two years ago, we told you about Ed, the conservative City Council member who, much to the chagrin of his neighbors, fellow councilors, and African-Americans everywhere, flew the stars and bars outside his house (check out the link above for the backstory).
Hansen owns the Rocco's Pizza in Little Canada, and after news of his Confederate flag-flying ways broke, Rocco's president contacted us to express his displeasure about Hansen's antics. Things went from bad to worse for Hansen when, later in 2012, Dakota County officials brought the aforementioned charges against him.
The disorderly charge stemmed from a November 23, 2011 incident, Hansen, upset about a redevelopment project occurring at a residential property adjacent to his home, berated a contractor working on the site.
"Hansen approached and said 'what the f*** are you doing?'" the complaint says. "Hansen began yelling at the contractor that he did not want this house to be built, and that Hansen was not going to allow the house to be built."
"The contractor reported that Hansen was ranting and raving, and most of Hansen's statements began with some variation of the word 'f***,'" it continues.
The misconduct charge pertains to a similar incident that took place months later. On June 8, 2012, a real estate agent showing the house reported that Hansen entered the home and falsely told a potential buyer "anyone buying the property would have to trespass on [my] property to get to this property."
Told by the potential buyer that they planned to turn the property into residential rentals, Hansen allegedly "told the buyer in an irate, raised voice that he was a 'City Councilman for West Saint Paul' and that he would 'make sure he would never get a rental permit,'" the complaint continues. "The potential buyer reported that the confrontation with Hansen inside the house made the potential buyer feel physically threatened."
The listing agent elected to temporarily pull the property from the market after being told of Hansen's alleged antics, the complaint says.
Asked about those charges following Hansen's acquittal, his attorney, Nathan Hansen, characterized them as "a whole stack of bullshit."
(Click to page two for more.)
"My opening argument was, if you ever watch Seinfeld, it was the show about nothing. Well, this case was the case about nothing," Nathan continued. "The neighbor who was developing the property is an FBI agent, and it was just a vendetta by the thugs on the West St. Paul City Council. They owe him an apology."
With regard to the misconduct charge, Nathan said there's "nothing illegal with expressing disagreement with a development project." About the disorderly, he added, "if you're going to go after speech, you have to say something way more extreme than F-words."
But what about the fact Hansen flew a Confederate flag in his front yard?
"What's illegal about that?" Nathan replied.
"The state actually offered the allegation that flying a Confederate flag establishes probable cause of a crime," he continued, adding that the case was "the craziest" he's encountered during his decade of practicing law. "Shame on them."
Though he was acquitted, Ed did resign from the West St. Paul City Council in 2012, Nathan told us.
"He opposed any project where [the City Council] wanted to subsidize things," he said. "He was sick of people having it out for him."
"All of this was a political persecution," he continued. "The prosecutor should've dismissed it. This should've never gone to trial."
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at email@example.com.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.