Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday retroactively eliminating jail time for citizens who violate the state's stay-at-home rules, freeing salon owner Shelley Luther, who was jailed for seven days and fined $7,000 for reopening her business against court orders.
Abbott specifically named Luther in his announcement:
"Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen. That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order. This order is retroactive to April 2nd, supersedes local orders and if correctly applied should free Shelley Luther ... As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place."
Shortly after Abbott's announcement, the Supreme Court of Texas ordered Luther's release.
The governor added that his order "may also ensure" the release of Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata, who were arrested in Laredo, Texas, for providing cosmetic services inside their homes.
🔦 At her hearing on Tuesday, Judge Eric Moyé asked Luther to admit that her decision to reopen her salon was "selfish," and told her to apologize.
Luther was unrepentant, explaining that she reopened on April 24 because she hadn't earned income since the county's stay-at-home order was set in March, and that she applied for a federal PPP loan but hadn't received the aid until Sunday. She also explained that she was operating her business at reduced capacity and with a number of new safety protocols in place to protect staff and customers.
"I couldn't feed my family, and my stylists couldn't feed their families," Luther said.
"I have much respect for this court and laws. I have never been in this position before and it's not someplace 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 you decision but I am not going to shut the salon."
She was then immediately taken into custody and booked into the Dallas County jail, where there are currently 248 inmates who have tested positive for the coronavirus.