Update: The Supreme Court of Texas has ordered the release of Shelly Luther, the woman jailed for opening her Salon in spite of the government’s lockdown orders.
Tessa Weinberg, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Gov. Greg Abbott modified his executive orders Thursday to remove confinement as a punishment for violations, paving the way for the release of a Dallas salon owner who has gained national attention after being sentenced to a week in jail for violating coronavirus-related restrictions.
“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,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday. “That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order.”
Abbott said his change supersedes local orders and would be applied retroactively to April 2. And “if correctly applied” should free salon owner Shelley Luther, who was sentenced Tuesday to a week in jail for being found in contempt of court. Luther was also fined $7,000 for violating a temporary restraining order against reopening her business.
Abbott said his change “may also ensure” that other Texans should not be subject to confinement. In his statement, he specifically named Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata, two women who were arrested in Laredo late last month for offering nail and eyelash services, allegedly in violation of the local emergency management plan, according to the Laredo Morning Times.
As Luther’s case rocketed into the national spotlight and Texas’ top leaders advocated for her release, some had pointed to the arrests of Castro-Garcia and Mata as evidence of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Previously, Abbott has repeatedly stressed that violating his executive orders related to the coronavirus outbreak could result in fines up to $1,000, jail time up to 180 days, or both.
“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,” Abbott said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
©2020 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.