Shelley Luther, who was sentenced to seven days in prison and a $7,000 fine on Tuesday for refusing to close her Dallas salon, was released from prison on Thursday, May 7. She was set free after Texas’ top politicians expressed ubiquitous outrage about her arrest. The Texas Supreme Court ordered her release.
While in court, Judge Eric Moyé asked Luther to apologize for operating her business and commit to not reopening her salon. If she complied, he said he wouldn’t sentence her to jail time.
She refused and told the judge that she couldn’t comply because she needed to operate her business to feed her family.
“I have much respect for this court and laws. I have never been in this position before and it’s not some place that I want to be. But I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I’m selfish — because feeding my kids is not selfish. I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon,” Luther said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement on Twitter Wednesday calling for Luther’s release. “I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family’s table. The trial judge did not need to lock up Shelley Luther. His order is a shameful abuse of judicial discretion, which seems like another political stunt in Dallas. He should release Ms. Luther immediately,” Attorney General Paxton wrote.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, also issued a statement expressing support for Luther. “I join the Attorney General in disagreeing with the excessive action by the Dallas judge, putting Shelley Luther in jail for seven days. As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option. Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother,” Gov. Abbott tweeted.
On Thursday, Gov. Abbott modified his previous executive order to make it clear that no one could be thrown in jail for operating their business. “Throwing Texans in jail whose businesses shut down through no fault of their own is wrong. I am eliminating jail for violating an order, retroactive to April 2, superseding local orders. Criminals shouldn’t be released to prevent COVID-19 just to put business owners in their place,” Gov. Abbott tweeted.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Texas, offered on Wednesday to pay Luther’s fine and volunteered to take her place in prison. “Seven days in jail, no bail and a $7,000 fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding. I’m covering the $7,000 fine she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under house arrest so she can go to work and feed her kids,” Lt. Gov. Patrick wrote on Twitter.
As both Attorney General Paxton and Gov. Abbott noted in their statements, prior to arresting Luther for operating her business, Dallas County released 1,000 inmates due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
In a viral video posted to Twitter, Luther can be seen walking out of jail to thunderous applause from a crowd which had gathered to support her.
A GoFundMe set up to support Luther has raised $500,110 and was no longer receiving donations as of publishing time.
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Photo from screenshot