Woman sentenced to 5 years in prison for voter fraud released!

In a case that has sparked outrage from voting rights activists for years, a Texas appeals court on Thursday reversed itself and acquitted a woman sentenced to five years in prison for illegally casting provisional ballots in the 2016 election.

The ruling comes two years after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, ruled that a lower appeals court, the Second Circuit, erred in ruling that Crystal Mason was convicted of illegal voting in 2018.

Ms. Mason, 49, of Fort Worth, was charged with illegally voting in the 2016 general election. The vote was never officially counted and Ms Mason insisted she did not know she was ineligible to vote and acted on the advice of a poll worker who told her she could vote.

Ms. Mason, who was released on bond, appealed her conviction. In 2020, a second appeals court ruled that whether or not she knew she was ineligible to vote was “irrelevant to the case.”

But in 2022, the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and asked a lower court to re-evaluate the case. It said the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Mason, who was serving a five-year sentence on a federal conspiracy charge with three years on probation, knew her circumstances made her ineligible to vote.

In ruling to overturn her conviction and acquit her, the prosecution said there was insufficient evidence to prove she knew.

A copy of the ruling was provided by the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“I was thrown into this fight for voting rights, a political ploy to attack the voting rights of minorities, and I would swing so that no one else would have to face what I went through for six years,” Ms. Mason said. Report Thursday. “I cried and prayed every night for over six years that I would be a free black woman.”

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Thomas Buser-Clancy, attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said Ms. represented Mason and said his victory was a victory for democracy.

“We are relieved for Mrs. Mason who has waited so long in uncertainty about whether she will be imprisoned for five years and separated from her family for trying to do her civic duty,” he said.

Ms. The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the case against Mason, could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday night.

Prosecutors argued there was reason to believe Ms. Mason had read the provisional ballot, which spelled out the voter eligibility requirements, and thus knew she was committing a crime.

Mrs. Mason's conviction is a flashpoint for voting rights activists, whose case underscores racial disparities in the prosecution of criminal voter fraud cases, and the complexity of voting laws for those convicted of felonies.

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