By Sarah Sarder
A district judge sentenced a Tarrant County woman to five years in prison Wednesday for illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election.
Crystal Mason, 43, was on supervised release for a 2011 conviction for tax fraud when she voted. In Texas, convicted felons can't vote until they complete their full sentence, including supervised release.
After her conviction, Mason chose to forgo a jury trial and have her sentence assessed instead. State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez oversaw sentencing.
In cases such as Mason's, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware that she was not allowed to vote, Tarrant County prosecutor Matt Smid said.
The investigation began after a worker at the polls reported problems with Mason's ballot, said Samantha Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney's office.
When Mason voted in 2016, her name was not on the list of registered voters. The election judge offered her the option to vote provisionally after signing an affidavit. The document lists several requirements to vote, including that the voter is not a felon or has served the full sentence.
"The affidavit was a stop sign in front of her face," Smid said.
Smid said sentencing in such a case depends primarily on what the judge feels is deserved because there are very few cases to use as precedent. The judge had the option to sentence Mason to anywhere between two to 20 years in prison or probation.
Mason told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that she was never told she was not eligible to vote, and she would not intentionally risk her freedom to vote.
"I inflated returns," Mason told the Star-Telegram. "I was trying to get more money back for my clients. I admitted that. I owned up to that. I took accountability for that. I would never do that again. I was happy enough to come home and see my daughter graduate. My son is about to graduate. Why would I jeopardize that? Not to vote. ... I didn't even want to go vote."
Mason's defense attorney J. Warren St. John told the Star-Telegram an appeal has been filed in Mason's case in order to allow her to be released on bond.
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