DALLAS, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott issued letters on Wednesday calling for the release of Dallas salon owner, Shelley Luther, who was ordered to seven days jail for defying business closure orders from a Dallas County judge — just two days shy of statewide orders allowing her to lawfully reopen her business.
Yesterday, Luther was sentenced to seven days jail and ordered to pay a $7,000 fine — $1,000 each day she opened despite previous citations, cease-and-deceased letters, and restraining orders — by Dallas Civil Judge Eric Moye.
Moye told Luther her actions were selfish and offered her a deal to avoid jail time; apologize, pay a fine, and shut down her salon until Friday. She declined.
"I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I'm selfish," she told Moye during Tuesday's hearing. "Because feeding my kids is not selfish.”
“I have hairstylists that are going hungry because they would rather feed their kids," she 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."
"I urge you to reconsider and immediately release Ms. Luther," Paxton stated in a letter to Moye on Wednesday. "As a mother, Ms. Luther wanted to feed her children. As a small business owner, she wanted to help her employees feed their children. Needless to say, these are laudable goals that warrant the exercise of enforcement discretion."
Paxton argued local officials in Dallas have already taken "considerable" steps to release or not prosecute those less deserving of enforcement discretion, noting: Dallas County District Attorney John Crezot's letter last year in which they would not prosecute theft of person items less than $750 if the alleged theft was for economic gain; the Dallas County Sheriff's Office request to arresting agencies to exercise discretion to bring fewer people to jail; and the Dallas County Jails efforts to reduce its jail population by releasing inmates due to COVID-19 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," stated Paxton.
"Finally, the Court’s confinement order is significantly overbroad. Under the Governor’s new executive order, Ms. Luther will be allowed to lawfully operate her business in just two days," he stated. "Confining Ms. Luther for seven days, well after she could be operating her business and providing for her children, is unjustifiable."
Abbott released the following statement:
"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 our 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."
Paxton's complete letter to Moye: