The morning after a North Texas businesswoman was fined and imprisoned for daring to open her hair salon before governing authorities permitted it, grassroots activists and leaders gathered and demanded that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pardon her. He has yet to do so and has alleged he can’t.
On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott announced hair salons may open on May 8, with restrictions. But later that evening, Shelley Luther, owner of Salon A La Mode in Dallas, was sentenced by Judge Eric Moye to seven days in jail for criminal contempt of court and seven days for civil contempt of court; both sentences are to be served concurrently. Moye also fined Luther $500 a day for the seven days she has been open and will continue the daily fines until May 8.
“[S]ir, 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,” Luther told Moye when he offered her a lighter sentence if she’d apologize for being “selfish” when she reopened her salon earlier than allowed.
Since then, 23 members of the State Republican Executive Committee wrote an open letter asking Abbott to issue a pardon for Luther.
The next morning, grassroots activists and leaders gathered across the street from the very courthouse where Luther was sentenced, chanting, “Pardon Shelley Now!”
“Honestly, I was shocked,” Bill Haugen told Texas Scorecard when asked about Luther’s arrest.
“It’s an unbelievable crime, especially to happen here in the state of Texas,” said Sam Anderson. “It just breaks my heart that our governor even let this get as far along as it did where they would arrest her.”
“I want him to pardon her,” Anderson added.
Luther’s arrest also motivated Texans from outside Dallas County to come and support her. “For cutting hair, that’s ridiculous. It’s wrong,” said Ruth York of Eastland County.
“I heard about [Luther’s arrest] yesterday, and I just couldn’t believe it,” said Kristi Lisenbee of Tarrant County. “[Abbott] needs to free her.”
“Shelley Luther is the new face for Texas liberty,” JoAnn Fleming, president of Grassroots America – We The People, told her supporters outside the courthouse. “We want everybody to start telling Greg Abbott that he needs to pardon Shelley Luther now.”
“You know who’s responsible for her being in jail?” former State Sen. Don Huffines asked the crowd. “It’s Gov. Abbott that can get her out of jail, and we need her out of jail.”
“The kind of stuff that you’re seeing here has been going on in California for a very long time,” said Mark Meckler with Citizens for Self-Governance and Convention of States. “I never thought I’d see the governor of Texas sit at his desk and sign decrees that would allow us to put working moms in prison.”
Even conservative Republican candidates for office outside of the area came to show their support.
“I’m proud of her,” said Bryan Slaton, a candidate in the Republican primary runoff for Texas House District 2. “[There are] people [who] maybe say they’re willing to fight, then they get to the fight and they’re willing to do anything but take the punch. Well, Shelley—she’s all in.”
“She doesn’t need the government’s approval to run her business, that’s my opinion,” he added.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Jon Francis, a Republican primary runoff candidate for Texas House District 60. “[She] is trying to feed her family, and this is just capriciousness on the part of the judge, and I’m disgusted.”
Texas Scorecard sent inquiries to Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch—the lone Republican on the commissioners court—if he would attend the rally in support of Luther. We received no response and he was not seen.
Abbott responded to the pleas for him to issue a pardon on the Chris Salcedo show on Wednesday:
“A governor does not have the ability just to—on any particular day—grant a pardon to somebody.”
“There are so many other strategies [local officials] could have done to maintain compliance with the executive orders,” Abbott said.
Empower Texans General Counsel Tony McDonald noted that, although Abbott would need a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles in order to pardon Luther, that isn’t an insurmountable burden.
“He needs a recommendation in writing from a majority of the board,” said McDonald. “That means he needs to make four phone calls in order to get it done.”
This article has been updated since publication.