United States

Mother Jailed for Keeping Her “Non-Essential” Business Open: “Feeding My Kids Is Not Selfish”

A mother in Dallas, Texas has been jailed for a week and fined $7,000 for keeping her business open despite coronavirus restrictions demanding the closure of “non-essential businesses.” The sentencing comes after the same county released a thousand hardened criminals for fear of them contracting COVID-19 in prison.

Shelly Luther, the owner of Salon à la Mode appeared in court on Tuesday where a judge said she could avoid jail if she apologised for being selfish, closed her business, and paid a fine.

Judge Eric Moyé told Ms Luther that she must “see the error of her ways and understand that the society cannot function where one’s own belief in a concept of liberty permits you to flaunt your disdain for the rulings of duly elected officials.

“You owe an apology to the elected officials whom you disrespected for fragrantly ignoring, and in one case defying their orders which you now know obviously apply to you. That you understand that in a proper way, in an ordered society, to engage concerns which you may have had is to hire a lawyer and advocate for change and exception or an amendment to laws you find offensive.”

Judge Moyé continued: “That you publicly state that this is the way that citizens in this state should behave and that you represent to this court that you will today cease operation of your salon and not reopen until after further orders of the government permit you to do so. This court will consider the payment of a fine in lieu of the incarceration which you’ve demonstrated that you have so clearly earned.”

Ms Luther told the judge that she refuses to apologise and close the salon, because “feeding my kids is not selfish.”

“Judge, I would like to say that I have much respect for this court and laws,” Ms Luther said. “I’ve 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 your decision but I’m not going to shut the salon.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has called for the “immediate release” of Ms Luther, calling the arrest an “outrageous” “political stunt.”

“I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family’s table,” Attorney General Paxton said.

“The trial judge did not need to lock up Shelley Luther. His order is a shameful abuse of judicial discretion, which seems like another political stunt in Dallas. He should release Ms Luther immediately.”

About a thousand inmates have been released from Dallas County jail to help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 inside the facility.

A GoFundMe page which was set up to support Ms Luther and her business has raised close to $500,000 in donations in just two weeks.

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