After opening up her hair salon in defiance of orders from state, county, and city officials prohibiting the reopening of salons, Dallas small-business owner Shelley Luther was sentenced to seven days in jail on Tuesday and thousands of dollars in fines.
Overnight, thousands of Texans rallied to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to pardon her from the extreme sentence.
But in a statement on Wednesday, Abbott declined to do so, despite saying he disagreed with the “excessive action” taken against her.
Since April 24, Luther’s business—Salon A La Mode in Dallas County—has been open, despite shelter-in-place orders from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as well as county and city officials prohibiting hair salons and other so-called “non-essential” businesses from being open during the Chinese coronavirus shutdowns.
In that time, Luther was given a citation from local officials and a cease-and-desist order from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, as well as a temporary restraining order from the City of Dallas. Throughout, Luther repeatedly said she would not close her business or pay the citation issued against her, and a movement of Texans has rallied around her as a hero defending individual liberty.
When Dallas Judge Eric Moye offered her the opportunity to potentially avoid her sentence if she admitted she was selfish, apologized, and promised to keep her salon closed, she boldly refused.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton put out a statement on Wednesday calling for her “immediate release,” saying that Moye’s order was “a shameful abuse of judicial discretion, which seems like another political stunt in Dallas.”
“As a mother, Ms. Luther wanted to feed her children,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Moye. “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.”
Shortly after Paxton’s statement and letter went public, Abbott released one of his own, saying he joined Paxton in disagreeing with the excessive action of Judge Moye.
However, he notably fell short of calling for her release—or announcing a pardon of her sentence—despite announcing on the same day of her sentencing that salons would be allowed to open up statewide on Friday, May 8.
“Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety,” Abbott said.
His brief statement ends by rhetorically noting, “Surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”
That response has inflamed many Texans who sympathize with Luther and are frustrated with government orders to keep businesses closed.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) did not mince words in his response to the governor’s statement on Twitter, calling Abbott’s lack of action “shameful” and adding that voters would not forget his “lack of leadership.”
So basically our Governor says “sucks to be you #ShelleyLuther but you’re on your own. Shameful that @GovAbbott won’t stick up for Texans liberty against liberal idiots like @JudgeClayJ . Voters won’t forget your lack of leadership Greg! #txlege https://t.co/E9Qdec6An8
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) May 6, 2020
In another Twitter post, lawmakers in the Texas Freedom Caucus also implored Abbott to commute her sentence, adding that “[t]he world is watching us.”
— Texas Freedom Caucus (@TxFreedomCaucus) May 6, 2020
State Rep. Mike Lang (R–Granbury) also criticized Abbott’s inaction, saying, “Gov. Abbott is now upset that a private citizen is in jail for operating a private business, which is a consequence of his order.”
In a nutshell, Gov. Abbott Calls the actions of a Judge in Dallas excessive, when the Judge was acting based on Gov. Abbott’s order. Gov. Abbott is now upset that a private citizen is in jail for operating a private business, which is a consequence of his order. 3/5 #Txlege
— Rep. Mike Lang (@RepMikeLang) May 6, 2020
Other Twitter users also took the opportunity to criticize the governor’s response, calling it “disappointing” and urging Abbott to pardon Luther.
— Betty Ann (@bawlaw99) May 6, 2020
— Thomas Marchetti (@Ryanexpress77) May 6, 2020
Concerned citizens may sign a petition asking Abbott to pardon Luther.