Crime: Texas mother Crystal Mason appeals five-year sentence for illegal voting - PressFrom - US
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CrimeTexas mother Crystal Mason appeals five-year sentence for illegal voting

00:15  12 september  2019
00:15  12 september  2019 Source:   cnn.com

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Mason received her five - year sentence for illegal voting in March, and is now appealing on the grounds that the Texas law disenfranchising felons is The agony of her current plight for Crystal Mason is that she had never intended to vote in the first place. It was her mother who persuaded her.

Crystal Mason , the woman who became the poster child for voter suppression when she was sentenced to five years for casting a ballot in Texas Fort Worth’s harsh treatment of illegal voters is paradoxical in that it has among the worst turnout rates in America. In recent city council elections

Texas mother Crystal Mason appeals five-year sentence for illegal voting© Courtesy ACLU Crystal Mason, center, has three children and is a caretaker for her brother's four children.

A Texas mother sentenced to five years in prison for voting illegally in the 2016 election appealed her conviction Tuesday, saying she did not know her status as a felon on release made her ineligible to cast a ballot.

Crystal Mason, an African-American mother of three, was on supervised release after serving time for tax fraud when she filled out a provisional ballot. She has said she did not know that as a convicted felon in Texas, she could not vote until the supervised release was complete.

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Crystal Mason has said she did not know that being on probation barred her from voting in the A judge who sentenced a Texas woman to five years in prison for voting illegally because she was a Ms. Mason was convicted of illegal voting in a one-day trial held March 28 before Judge Ruben

On Wednesday, she was sentenced to five years for voting illegally . In recent years, Texas has passed laws that have stepped up penalties for voter fraud, extending prison terms and Mason is currently out of jail on an appellate bond that is pending outcome of an appeal , says St. John.

Tuesday's half-hour hearing before a three-judge panel in Fort Worth focused largely on whether the provisional ballot that Mason cast actually constitutes a vote. A court representative told CNN there is no date set for a decision.

Mason, 44, and her supporters see her appeal as part of a broader fight to preserve voters' rights amid a crackdown on what some election officials allege is rampant fraud at the ballot box.

Mason "stepped forward to challenge the injustice that was done to her by this state's politicians, who were willing to deprive her of her liberty for five years for their own insidious political agenda," Beth Stevens, an attorney with the Texas Civl Rights Project, told reporters after the hearing. "No one should be incarcerated for, at worst, under the state's theory, making a mistake when they go cast a vote."

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Crystal Mason says she was not aware she was illegally voting , but she was sentenced to five years in jail. Convicted felons are not allowed to vote in Texas and Mason was on supervised release for tax fraud. St. John has filed an appeal and he hopes Mason will soon be released on bond.

Top civil rights groups will help Crystal Mason appeal her 5 year sentence for trying to vote . Mason was sentenced to five years in jail for The American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Civil Rights Project, said they'll be appealing Mason 's verdict, saying her case as an issue of voting rights.

Voting rights activists compare Mason's case to other voter fraud convictions, such as Terri Lynn Rote, an Iowa woman who tried to cast two votes for President Trump, and Russ Casey, a Texas justice of the peace who admitted to turning in fake signatures in order to get on a primary ballot. Those defendants, who are white, received sentences of two and five years' probation.

There are few cases of ineligible voters casting ballots and a smaller number still that lead to prosecutions, said Wendy Weiser, who directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law.

In cases of ineligible voting, prosecutors and judges usually find "no basis" to believe the individual had any criminal intent, Weiser said.

That's what Mason says -- that she did not know she was not allowed to vote and would never have run the risk of leaving her family again for prison in order to cast a ballot.

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If she had known it was illegal , Crystal Mason said she would have never cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election. The 43-year-old former tax preparer hadn’t even planned on voting until her mother encouraged Now, she’s going back to prison for casting a ballot illegally — for five years .

Texas Sentenced Her to Five Years in Prison for Trying. The case of a Texas mother is a window into how the myth of voter fraud is being weaponized to suppress the vote . Crystal Mason , a Texas mother of three, is on her way to Her appeal rests on several arguments, including that she did not

Texas mother Crystal Mason appeals five-year sentence for illegal voting© Courtesy ACLU Mason was incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth between 2018 and 2019.

"There's no way that I would have attempted to vote, to leave my children, to lose my job, to go through what I'm going through right now," Mason told CNN in a May interview at her Dallas church.

In court Tuesday, Tarrant County assistant district attorney Helena Faulkner said, "She knew she was ineligible to vote. She wasn't mistaken."

Sam Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office, said in a statement to CNN it should have been clear to Mason she was ineligible to vote. She said a letter was sent to her home after her tax fraud conviction -- one Mason says she didn't receive, since she was incarcerated -- and a written warning was on the side of the provisional ballot she filled out in 2016.

Mason didn't read the warning, she said, because she was focused on filling out personal information on the other side of the form.

In her appeal, Mason's defense disputed whether it's correct to say she even voted at all, since her provisional ballot was rejected and never tallied. The county elections administration sent Mason a letter explaining her vote was rejected because she was not a registered voter, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is part of her legal team.

Mason's lawyers have also argued that it is unclear whether Mason was truly ineligible to vote, saying her status was ambiguous while under federal supervised release.

Andre Segura, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said Mason's case is the first one the advocacy group knows of in Texas in which someone is prosecuted for casting just a provisional ballot.

"This is an example of an individual (who's) following procedures that are put in place, safeguards that already exist," said Sophia Lakin, an attorney with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project who attended the Tuesday hearing. A sentence of five years in prison, Lakin said, "really is outsize and outrageous" for making "what normally would be seen as an a understandable mistake."

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