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Texas Gov Abbott one-ups overbearing judges, issues exec order eliminating jail for violating an order

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is making it clear he will “not allow” people in his state to be thrown in jail for violations of coronavirus orders.

The Republican lawmaker modified his own COVID-19 executive orders on Thursday and effectively put judges in their place who have fined and jailed Texans for violations, including most recently Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther.

“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 press release from his office.

“That is why I am modifying my executive orders to ensure confinement is not a punishment for violating an order,” he added, noting that the order is “retroactive to April 2nd, supersedes local orders and if correctly applied should free Shelley Luther.”

Luther was serving a seven-day jail sentence for violating Texas stay-at-home orders, opening her salon for business because she needed to be able to provide for her family. She gained support and attention for tearing up the cease-and-desist letter that ordered her to shut the doors of her salon and would not take up District Judge Eric Moyé’s offer to avoid jail time by apologizing.

Luther told the judge that “feeding my kids is not selfish. 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 Attorney General Ken Paxton slammed the judge for “abusing his authority” and called for the “immediate release” of Luther.

Abbott noted that his order modification “may also ensure that other Texans like Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata who were arrested in Laredo, should not be subject to confinement,” referring to the women who were arrested following a sting operation because they were reportedly providing salon services inside their own homes.

“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 added, in reference to some counties in Texas that planned to release nonviolent offenders from jail.

“The Dallas County district attorney announced a policy that he is not going to prosecute any thief who steals things valued at less than $750,” Abbott told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday. “At the same time, authorities in Dallas are talking about releasing inmates from prison or jail because of the possibility of contracting COVID-19.”

He also addressed the issue of Texans facing jail time over not wearing a protective mask in public.

“They were issuing fines and potential jail time for anybody who refused to wear a mask,” Abbott said. “Now, as you pointed out, wearing a mask is the best practice. However, no one should forfeit their liberty and be sent to jail for not wearing a mask.”

News of the governor’s update to the order and the imminent release of Luther from jail was met with immediate praise on social media, and critics were quickly schooled.


Frieda Powers


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