NATIONAL NEWS

Texas appeals court overturns voter fraud conviction for woman on probation

Mar 29, 2024, 5:39 AM

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Texas appeals court has overturned a Fort Worth woman’s voter fraud conviction and five-year prison term for casting an illegal provisional ballot.

Crystal Mason did not know that being on probation for a previous felony conviction left her ineligible to vote in 2016, the Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled on Thursday.

Prosecutors maintained that Mason read and signed an affidavit accompanying the provisional ballot affirming that she had “fully completed” her sentence if convicted of a felony.

Justice Wade Birdwell wrote that having read these words on the affidavit didn’t prove Mason knowingly cast the provisional ballot illegally.

“Even if she had read them, they are not sufficient … to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she actually knew that being on supervised release after having served her entire federal sentence of incarceration made her ineligible to vote by casting a provisional ballot.”

Mason, a former tax preparer, had been convicted in 2012 on charges related to inflating refunds for clients and served nearly three years of a five-year sentence in prison. Then she was placed on a three-year term of supervised release and had to pay $4.2 million in restitution, according to court documents.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals previously ordered the court to review whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Mason, ruling that Texas election law requires that individuals know they are ineligible to vote to be convicted of illegal voting.

Mason’s long sentence made both state Republican and Democratic lawmakers uneasy. In 2021, after passing a new voting law measure over Democrats’ objections, the GOP-controlled state House approved a resolution stating that “a person should not be criminally incarcerated for making an innocent mistake.”

Mason, in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said she is overjoyed.

“I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack,” Mason said.

Kim Cole, an attorney for Mason, called the prosecution malicious and politically motivated.

“The state’s prosecution specifically stated that they wanted to ‘send a message’ to voters. They deliberately put Crystal through over six years of pure hell,” Cole said in the statement.

Prosecutors did not immediately return a phone call for comment Friday morning.

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Texas appeals court overturns voter fraud conviction for woman on probation