Judge orders jail time for Dallas salon owner who reopened despite coronavirus concerns: Report

People are outraged after a Texas mom was thrown in jail for trying to feed her kids.

The owner of a Dallas nail salon was sentenced to a week in prison and slammed with a $7,000 fine for operating her business in defiance of a court order mandating that she follow the state’s social distancing guidelines, The Dallas Morning News reported. Shelley Luther’s case has become a flashpoint for people who are sick of the lockdowns, and even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Attorney General Ken Paxton have called for Luther to be let go.

Texas mom jailed

Luther wasn’t able to make money after the state closed down “non-essential” businesses in March, she said at a court hearing on Tuesday. The Dallas mom was issued a temporary restraining order in late April after she reopened her business, the Houston Chronicle reported, and a judge held her in contempt Tuesday for defying it.

At the hearing, the judge told Luther that she could escape jail time, but not fines, if she apologized and kept her business closed, The Dallas Morning News reported. She refused, telling County State District Judge Eric Moyé that there was nothing “selfish” about her actions. Her employees are suffering too, she said.

“Feeding my kids is not selfish,” she said, according to the Morning News. “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.”

The punishment couldn’t be timed worse; Gov. Abbott announced Tuesday that salons can start opening again on Friday, The Texas Tribune reported.

For the crime of trying to make a living during a pandemic, the struggling salon owner will now spend seven days in jail and steep fines. The Dallas County jail where she’ll be incarcerated has released at least 1,000 inmates over coronavirus concerns, according to Fox News.

Calls for release

Luther’s case comes as nationwide controversy rages over lockdown orders that have destroyed the U.S. economy, left more than 30 million people jobless, and left many others concerned about their civil liberties. Texas Attorney General Paxton, for his part, has denounced the judge, saying he abused his discretion and calling for Luther to be let go at once, Fox reported.

“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,” Paxton said in a statement Wednesday.

Gov. Abbott also came to Luther’s defense, saying that jail time should have been a last resort.

“I join the Attorney General in disagreeing with the excessive action by the Dallas Judge, putting Shelley Luther in jail for seven days,” Abbott said in a Wednesday statement. “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.”

Luther and her attorney also said that her salon was following social distancing guidelines and that employees wore masks — but the state has spoken.

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