Republican lawmakers on Wednesday lined up to throw their support behind Shelley Luther, a Dallas salon owner who’s attracted headlines for violating Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order close businesses as the coronavirus spread across the state.
Luther’s rebellion reached its peak last month when she attended a public protest and, citing the financial strain closing her business would cause, tore up a cease-and-desist letter from the county on stage before a cheering crowd.
After refusing to back down in court on Tuesday, telling Dallas Civil District Judge Eric Moyé that she had no intention of complying, Moyé sentenced Luther to seven days in jail and a fine of $500 for every day her salon remained open. The sentence drew immediate outrage across the state as many felt the judge had gone too far. Nevertheless, Luther’s act of courtroom defiance would ultimately be undercut by Abbott, who announced the same day that salons and barbershops were free to reopen at the end of the week.
Luther’s supporters include Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who according to the Dallas Morning News, has offered to pay Shelley’s fine.
On Thursday, Texas officials secured Luther’s release. Abbott also removed jail as a punishment for violating coronavirus restrictions.
Luther’s Facebook page, however, suggests that, at least a few months ago, she was very supportive of a judge’s right to arbitrarily hand out jail time whether a crime was committed or not.
In February, Luther posted a video of a Michigan judge calling out spectators in her gallery for causing a disturbance. Reportedly, the judge heard laughter coming from two people in the back of the courtroom. The judge then ordered the disruptive pair, one of whom was the defendant’s mother, to be escorted out of the courtroom.
The mother, whose daughter had admitted to a drunk driving crash, which resulted in the death of a 31-year-old man and injury to his fiancée, was also taken into custody. The judge then ordered that she spend 93 days in jail.
Luther shared a video of the incident to Facebook and appeared to support the judge’s right to hand down a 3-month sentence for a charge of civil contempt. (Luther’s contempt charges are both civil and criminal.)
“Exactly how that should work!” Luther wrote.
What the 2017 video shared by Luther doesn’t show is that the mother appeared later in court to apologize. Watching her daughter face 15 years in prison had put her under a lot of stress, she said. “I deeply apologize for what I did,” she said. The judge was understanding but asked her to think of the victim’s family, whose child was never coming home.
The mother’s jail time was reduced to one day and she was released on time served.
When Luther exits the Dallas County jail on Thursday, she’ll find she’s a half-million dollars wealthier thanks to a GoFundMe established in her name.
The Dallas Morning News reports there were 246 additional cases of covid-19 in Dallas County on Wednesday. Two deaths were also reported, an elderly man and woman, bringing the total to 123 deaths. The county saw more new cases of covid-19 on Tuesday that it had any day before it.