Leaders call for release of jailed Dallas salon owner who defied shutdown order

Leaders call for release of jailed Dallas salon owner who defied shutdown order
Shelley Luther was ordered to spend a week in jail after she continued to operate her salon in defiance of a state order. (Source: Dallas County Jail)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Dallas salon owner is garnering attention from state and local leaders after she defied the shutdown order imposed on businesses including nail and hair salons, and was fined and jailed by a Dallas judge.

Shelley Luther, owner of S&B Hot Mess Enterprises, LLC., was issued a temporary restraining order on April 28 to cease operation of her Dallas Salon, “Salon a La Mode.”

According to court documents, Luther continued to operate her business for seven days after the initial order, taking customers each day who received services from employees, “which by necessity included working in direct contact with said customers, ignoring the County and City requirements (and the Center for Disease Control recommended guidelines) that individuals respect six-foot “social distancing” zone in which other individuals would not enter.”

Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order issued on March 13 stated, “people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons,” adding, “failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.”

Governor Abbott’s executive order was allowed to expire on April 30, but salons are not allowed to reopen until May 8. Luther was placed in confinement two days before salons will be allowed to reopen.

The Judgement of Contempt and Order of Confinement from the 14th Judicial District Court states Luther’s refusal to cease operations constituted criminal contempt of court, and that the defiance of the Court’s order was “open, flagrant and intentional.” The order states Luther would be remanded to the custody of Dallas County Sheriffs and “confined in a penal facility” for seven days, with a fine of $500.00 for each of the seven days in which the court says Luther violated the order.

Luther’s arrest drew responses from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Governor Greg Abbott, all three criticizing the arrest, with area Representative Dustin Burrows sharing their statements on social media.

Attorney General Paxton called the arrest a “misguided abuse of power,” as well as a “political stunt,” citing Dallas County’s recent reduction of jail population out of concern for COVID-19, saying: “A community that released all those people, some of whom committed serious crimes, can certainly stand to release one more—a mother whose only crime was operating a small business in an effort to feed her children.”

Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick announced on Twitter he would cover the fine, and volunteered to be placed under house arrest, if Luther could be released from Jail.

Governor Greg Abbott called for Luther’s release as well, saying, “Jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option.”

District 83 Representative Dustin Burrows said he was glad to see Gov. Abbott and AG Paxton call for Luther’s release.

Shelley Luther testified in a hearing Tuesday, where Dallas County Judge Eric Moye said he would consider levying a fine instead of jail time if Luther would apologize and not reopen until she was allowed to do so. Luther told Judge Moye, "“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.”

As of Wednesday evening, a GoFundMe started on behalf of Luther had raised more than $463,000. It is unknown at this time what the money will be used for, but the desciption states 100% of the proceeds will go to Shelley Luther.

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