Texas’ top leaders urged a state district judge to reconsider the week-long jail sentence of a Dallas salon owner who reopened her salon in the face of coronavirus-related restrictions on nonessential businesses.
In a Wednesday letter to state District Judge Eric Moyé, Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote that Shelley Luther, the owner of Salon … la Mode in Dallas, should be immediately released.
“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,” Paxton said in a statement.
It was a point Gov. Greg Abbott echoed in a statement of his own shortly after, calling Moyé’s ruling “excessive.”
“As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option,” Abbott said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Luther was sentenced Tuesday after she refused to admit she was wrong for reopening her salon and for not apologizing for doing so. In addition to spending a week in jail for being found in contempt of court, Luther was also fined $7,000 for violating a temporary restraining order against reopening her business.
In his letter, Paxton pointed to Dallas County officials reducing the county’s jail population due to COVID-19 related concerns.
“A community that released all those people, some of whom committed serious crimes, can certainly stand to release one more — a mother whose only crime was operating a small business in an effort to feed her children,” Paxton wrote.
Abbott also announced Tuesday that hair salons would be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity starting Friday — provided they follow strict rules, like limiting one customer per stylist and maintaining at least six feet of separation between stations.
In light of Abbott’s announcement, Paxton said Moyé’s ruling is “significantly overbroad” since Luther will be legally allowed to reopen in two days.
“Confining Ms. Luther for seven days, well after she could be operating her business and providing for her children, is unjustifiable,” Paxton wrote.
Luther had reopened her salon April 24, defying Dallas County’s stay-at-home order and going as far as tearing up a cease-and-desist letter from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Last Friday, the first phase of Texas’ “nonessential” businesses were allowed to open their doors to in-person customers at a limited capacity. At the time, Abbott had made clear that salons were not one of the businesses permitted to reopen.
In the past, Abbott has repeatedly stressed that violating his executive orders related to the coronavirus outbreak could result in fines up to $1,000, jail time up to 180 days, or both.
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