Texas Gov. Abbott and AG Paxton Condemn Jailing of Salon Owner Shelley Luther: ‘A shameful Abuse of Discretion’

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton released statements on Wednesday condemning the jail sentence of salon owner Shelley Luther, who was sentenced to seven days in jail and a $7,000 fine for violating Gov. Abbott’s executive order regarding the closing of “nonessential” businesses.

State District Judge Eric Moyé declared from the bench that he would not sentence Luther to jail if she apologized, admitted that she had been “selfish” and “wrong,” and promised not to reopen her salon until Friday, when salons are permitted to open under the governor’s revised executive order.

In response, Luther said:

I have much respect for this court and laws. I have 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. I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. 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 their statements, Abbott and Luther condemned Judge Moyé’s decision to jail Luther.

Paxton’s statement said, in part, “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 went on to call the sentence “a shameful abuse of judicial discretion.”

Abbott’s statement stated that he joined “the Attorney General in disagreeing with the excessive action by the Dallas judge. … Compliance with executive orders is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”

As governor, Abbott would presumably have the power to commute the jail portion of Luther’s sentence, if he so desired. His statement did not indicate whether he intended to do so.