A Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday (March 28) for voting in the 2016 presidential election despite being on supervised probation from a previous conviction. Crystal Mason, a 43-year-old mother of two, maintains that she was never informed that it was illegal to vote as a convicted felon.
“I find it amazing that the government feels she made this up,” her attorney, J. Warren St. John told the court, according to the Star-Telegram. “She was never told that she couldn’t vote, and she voted in good faith. Why would she risk going back to prison for something that is not going to change her life?”
Mason reportedly waved a jury trial and instead left her sentencing fate in the hands of District Judge Ruben Gonzalez.
Mason said in court that she would never intentionally jeopardize her freedom, and explained that her previous felony conviction was the result of “inflating” tax returns.
“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,” she said. “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 cast her vote in the 2016 election at the encouragement of her mother. When she arrived at the polling location her name wasn’t on the list, but she was given a provisional ballot. However, Mason admitted to not reading the ballot but noted that she was being assisted by a worker at the polling place. Although her ballot was later flagged, Mason wasn’t told that her vote was illegal until three months later when she was arrested after checking in with her probation officer.
In 2011, Mason pleaded guilty to fraud charges stemming from a tax preparation company that she owned with her husband, according to reports. She served nearly three years in prison, and was ordered to pay back $4.2 million in restitution.
Though Mason was remanded into custody immediately after being sentenced to five years in the voting case, St. John has already filed an appeal that could get her released on bail.
Per a previous report from 2017, Mason said that she believed she was being targeted because she voted for Hillary Clinton.
Nearly 500,000 convicted felons in Texas were not allowed to vote in the 2016 election. However, Texas has come under scrutiny for voter suppression against black and Latino voters.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was intentionally discriminatory, and violated the Voting Rights Act.