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Crystal Mason, the Black woman sentenced in 2016 for voter fraud in Taxes, will have her case reconsidered thanks to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Mason was convicted of illegally voting by a local Tarrant county judge in 2018 for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. Mason has long claimed that it was an honest mistake and that she was not aware she was not able to vote.
While on supervised release for a federal tax felony, Mason was advised by a poll worker that she could submit a provisional ballot in the 2016 election. However, because of her felony conviction, people in Texas cannot vote while they are serving any part of a federal sentence.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent Mason’s case back to the Second Court of Appeals to be reconsidered this past week.
Mason has remained out of prison on appeal since her 2018 conviction. It was upheld in 2020 by an appeals court.
The main argument by her attorneys is the fact that Mason did not know she was ineligible to vote. Mason’s lawyers argued that state laws in Texas stipulate that knowingly voting illegally was key to being found guilty of the crime.
“I am pleased that the court acknowledged issues with my conviction, and am ready to defend myself against these cruel charges,” said Mason. “My life has been upended for what was, at worst, an innocent misunderstanding of casting a provisional ballot that was never even counted. I have been called to this fight for voting rights and will continue to serve my community.”
Highest Texas Court Reconsiders Crystal Mason Case
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the appellate court had “erred by failing to require proof that [Mason] had actual knowledge that it was a crime for her to vote while on supervised release”.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that interpretation of the law was incorrect and “would lead to absurd consequences that the legislature could not possibly have intended”.
“The state was required to prove not only that [Mason] knew she was on supervised release but also that she ‘actually realized’ that ‘these circumstances … in fact’ rendered her ineligible to vote,” Judge Jesse McClure III, wrote for the 8-1 majority.
Crystal Mason has expressed the toll this mistake has taken on her life. She lost her job after she was initially indicted for voting illegally, and was sent back to federal prison for several months for being charged with a crime while on supervised release. She also nearly lost her home to foreclosure during that time as her teenage children stepped up to run the household.
“Crystal should never have been convicted. In fact, she should not have even been charged with a crime for at worst an innocent mistake protected by federal law. Now there is an opportunity for justice to prevail. Innocent mistakes can happen and the State should not be in the business of making people fearful to vote. I trust that the court will accurately interpret and apply the law and overturn Crystal’s conviction,” said Kim T. Cole, attorney for Ms. Mason.