DALLAS, TX.- The continuing battle between those who are content with letting the government control every aspect of their lives and those who are tiring of government overreach reached a fever pitch this past week after a Dallas judge sentenced a single mother to seven days jail for opening her hair salon in violation of a statewide “stay-at-home” order that was scheduled to be partially lifted on Friday.
Judge Eric Moye, a long-time Democrat, carried out the sentence, holding her in both civil and criminal contempt of court.
Moye, who admonished Shelley Luther in court, said that if she apologized, admitted she was wrong and agreed to close her hair salon, she could avoid jail time.
Moye has a web page where he proudly displays pictures of himself with Obama and other Democrats.
Moye’s hard-handed sentence upon a single mother drew the ire of people across the country, and got the attention of several prominent Texas conservatives.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who had previously ruled hair salons as “non-essential” for several weeks, but is allowing them to reopen on Friday, called Luther’s sentence “excessive,” while adding that he believed “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,” Abbott said. “However, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”
In addition to Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Luther’s sentence “outrageous,” while demanding she be released from jail.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meanwhile offered to pay her $7,000 fine and even agreed to serve out Luther’s sentence under house arrest. Abbott, Paxton, and Patrick are all Republicans.
7 days in jail, no bail and a $7K fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding. I’m covering the $7K fine she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under House Arrest so she can go to work and feed her kids. #txlege #TexansHelpingTexans https://t.co/gdtMLAHFV5
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 6, 2020
Several other prominent Republicans also railed against the ruling, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX). They spoke at a rally in Dallas on Wednesday in support of Luther.
Moye was unfazed by the criticism. He released a letter on Wednesday addressed to Paxton from him and 11 other state district judges from Dallas County, in which they accused him of “most inappropriate and equally unwelcome” conduct in urging for Luther’s release.
“It is contrary to the concept of an independent Judiciary and offends the tradition of separation of powers for any member of the Executive Branch of Texas government to interject itself into the proceedings of the judicial branch,” they said.
The letter continued, “For the sake of ALL of the citizens of Texas, please let the Judicial process play out without any further interference.”
Democrats threw down with criminals locked up in jail, while seemingly being unphased by the plight of a single mother.
“Salon owner sentenced to 7 days in jail=outrage,” said state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso on Twitter.
“Ignoring the plight of thousands of inmates in jails and prisons in TX=business as usual. I’m growing weary of the righteous indignation of folks who never once gave a second thought to the incarcerated.”
On Thursday, Abbott announced that he was amending his original order to prohibit confinement as a condition of violating his emergency order, and said that this would apply retroactively, which in effect made Luther’s sentencing null and void. Abbott said that Luther should be freed from jail if the latest tweak in the order was “correctly applied.”
“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.
Throwing Texans in jail whose biz's shut down through no fault of their own is wrong.
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.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 7, 2020
On Thursday afternoon, Luther was released from jail after the Texas Supreme Court ordered her release.
Critics had claimed that Abbott, Patrick and Paxton were pushing to release Luther because she was white, while remaining silent about alleged disparities in how racial and ethnic minorities are treated in the criminal justice system.
Abbott noted that there were two Hispanic salon owners who had faced criminal sanctions for reopening their businesses early, and he said the two women, Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia and Brenda Stephanie Mata, both arrested in Laredo, “should not be subject to confinement.”
WTF: Police posing as customers arrested these women in their homes. https://t.co/QRqTJArowv
— reason (@reason) April 27, 2020
Both women were cited based on “sting” operations, with Castro-Garcia, 31, agreeing to provide an undercover officer with nail service, while Mata, 20, agreed to perform an eyelash service inside her residence. The mayor of Laredo, Pete Saenz backed up the police department’s use of undercover officers to identify lockdown scofflaws.
Abbott also noted the absurdity of locking up business owners at the same time Democratic county officials are releasing dangerous criminals into the community.
“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.
In response to the letter sent by the civil court judges criticizing his intervention, Paxton rebutted what they had said.
“While this episode is concluded, your ‘collective response’ to my initial letter demands a rejoinder as it is inaccurate in several important respects,” Paxton wrote.
In particular, he disputed the contention of the judges that his Wednesday letter to Moye’ that his letter to them was an improper “ex parte communication.”
“I am not a party in Ms. Luther’s case, nor do I represent a party,” Paxton said. “I represent the countless Texans outraged by Judge Moye’s order jailing a mother trying to provide for her children.”
Paxton also denied that he was breaching the judicial branch’s prerogatives, and he attached a screenshot of Moye social media post from April which Paxton condemned as Moye being pleased over a COVID-19 infection of a North Carolina stay-at-home protester.
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