Thanks to an order by the Texas Supreme Court, a Dallas salon owner was released from a stint in jail on Thursday after defying state lockdown orders and reopening her business.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Shelley Luther was released from the Dallas County Jail hours after the high court’s ruling and met with jubilant cheers and chants of “Shelley’s free,”
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Luther said. “I just want to thank all of you who I just barely met, and now you’re all my friends. You mean so much to me, this would have been nothing without you.”
Earlier in the day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott modified his executive orders to remove jail time as a consequence for violating them.
Luther, the owner of Salon à la Mode, had gained national attention after state District Judge Eric Moyé offered her the chance to apologize for being “selfish” or spend a week in jail and pay a $7,000 fine.
“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday. “That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order.”
Abbott’s change to his executive order will supersede all local orders and be applied retroactively as far back as April 2.
Before the Texas Supreme Court’s decision, Dallas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Raul Reyna told news outlets that Abbott’s modified order alone would not immediately affect Luther because she was jailed for being in contempt of court for violating state District Judge Eric Moyé’s order, not Abbott’s.
In an email Thursday afternoon, however, Reyna said the sheriff’s office had received the Texas Supreme Court’s order and that Luther was in the process of being released.
Previously, violating Abbott’s executive orders intended to throttle the coronavirus pandemic within the state included fines up to $1,000, jail time up to 180 days, or both.
As of today, Texas salons, barber shops, and nail and tanning salons have been given the green light to reopen in a limited capacity.
Abbott also visited the White House on Thursday afternoon and discussed his modified order and Luther’s release with President Donald Trump.
“She’s free today,” Abbott said, to which Trump responded, “Good,”
“I was watching the salon owner,” the president added. “She looked so great, so professional, so good when she was talking about her children. She has to feed her children.”
Abbott said his change “may also ensure” that other Texans would not be subject to confinement for violating the executive order.
In his statement, he also named Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata, two women who were arrested in Laredo in April for offering nail and eyelash services.
Before her release, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick volunteered to serve Luther’s sentence under house arrest. A spokeswoman for Patrick wrote in an email Thursday that he had donated $7,000 to her GoFundMe page to cover her fine.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had called for Luther’s immediate release, applauded both Abbott and the Texas Supreme Court’s decisions Thursday, saying that “The Texas Supreme Court correctly addressed Ms. Luther’s excessive punishment and unnecessary jailing.”
“No Texan should face imprisonment for peacefully resisting an order that temporarily closed a lawful business and drastically limited their ability to provide for their family through no fault of their own,” said Paxton. “Texans must all work together to overcome this crisis, and ensuring freedom from excessive punishment is critical.”
In an interview with Sean Hannity following her release, a relieved Luther said that she felt compelled to reopen her salon, yet she couldn’t bring herself to apologize for it.
After Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins “kept pushing back the date of when we would open,” Luther said, she “just woke up one day and I said, ‘I have to open, my stylists are calling me, they’re not making their mortgage.’ I’m two months behind on my mortgage.”
“That was the last thing I was going to do, honestly,” she said of Judge Moyé’s ultimatum. “I just couldn’t, I couldn’t bring myself to apologize.”
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