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TX Supreme Court orders release of jailed salon owner who violated lockdown order

Shelley Luther. (Dallas County Sheriff's Department/Released)
May 07, 2020

The Texas Supreme Court has ordered a Dallas salon owner, Shelley Luther, released from jail by 4 p.m. CST today following a Dallas judge’s decision to jail her for reopening her business in defiance of the state’s coronavirus lockdown order.

On Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the Supreme Court’s decision in a tweet. “BREAKING: The Supreme Court of Texas has ordered Shelley Luther be released from Dallas County jail!” Paxton tweeted.

Also on Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott indicated he would be modifying his state’s coronavirus lockdown orders to prevent people from being jailed for defying them.

“Throwing Texans in jail whose biz’s 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,” Abbott tweeted. “Criminals shouldn’t be released to prevent COVID-19 just to put business owners in their place.”

State District Judge Eric Moyé previously decided on a seven-day jail sentence for Luther. During the proceeding, Moyé offered Luther the chance to avoid jail time by admitting her actions were selfish and apologizing for breaking the lockdown.

“Judge, I would like to say that I have much respect for this court and law and that I’ve 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,” Luther replied.

“I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids,” Luther continued. “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.”

In his sentencing decision Moyé noted Luther’s defiance in the face of potential jail time, NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth reported. Moyé said despite being given the opportunity to apologize, Luther “expressed no contrition, remorse or regret.”

Moyé handed down the decision the same day Abbott announced cosmetology and nail salons, and similar businesses would be allowed to open by Friday, May 8.

The judge’s decision sparked a widespread backlash on Tuesday. In a comment, Former U.S. Navy SEAL and Republican Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw expressed concern that “small-minded ‘leaders’ across the country have become drunk with power” throughout the coronavirus lockdowns.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas has recorded more than 33,369 coronavirus cases and 906 coronavirus related deaths, as of Wednesday.