Shelley Luther, who has become somewhat of a folk hero after refusing to close down her beauty salon despite state-mandated lockdown orders, was released from jail Thursday. Luther got emotional as she thanked her supporters after her release.
As Luther exited the Dallas County Jail on Thursday afternoon, the Dallas salon owner was greeted by people chanting: "Shelley's free!"
"Thank you guys so much," Luther told the crowd. "I just want to thank all of you who I just barely met, and now you're all my friends."
"You mean so much to me, and this would have been nothing without you," the salon owner said as she fought off tears. "I'll have more to say when I can gather myself, but I'm a little overwhelmed."
The Texas Supreme Court ordered the release of Luther, who was arrested on Tuesday after she defied stay-at-home orders and refused to close her Dallas salon. Dallas Civil District Judge Eric Moyé sentenced Luther to seven days in jail for contempt of court and also levied a $7,000 fine against her for keeping the salon open in defiance of the coronavirus shutdown.
The judge told Luther that he would consider not giving her jail time if she agreed to close her salon and if she admitted that she was "wrong" and "selfish," and apologized to the "elected officials whose orders she violated."
"I have much respect for this court and laws," Luther told the judge. "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," Luther continued. "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 your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) came to the defense of Luther on Wednesday.
"I join the Attorney General in disagreeing with the excessive action by the Dallas Judge, putting Shelley Luther in jail for seven days," Abbott said. "As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option. Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother."
On Thursday, Abbott amended his coronavirus lockdown executive order and eliminated confinement as a punishment for violating business closures and not obeying social distancing guidelines.
"Throwing Texans in jail whose biz's shut down through no fault of their own is wrong," Abbott wrote on Twitter. "I am eliminating jail for violating an order, retroactive to April 2, superseding local orders. Criminals shouldn't be released to prevent COVID-19 just to put business owners in their place."
Abbott will allow barbershops, beauty salons, and tanning bed services to reopen on Friday, 10 days earlier than the governor's original mid-May date.