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Crystal Mason

Source: CBS Texas / Youtube

Crystal Mason, who was sentenced to five years in Texas for trying to vote with a ballot in 2016 that was rejected, was acquitted.

On Thursday (March 28), an appeals court in Texas threw out a five-year prison sentence given to Crystal Mason, who was sentenced for trying to vote in the 2016 presidential election using a provisional ballot in Fort Worth that was rejected. Mason maintained that she had no idea she was ineligible due to being on supervised release for a tax felony at the time. The case became nationally known and was regarded as an attempt to intimidate Black voters as they saw the sentence as egregious for what legal observers saw as a simple error.

“We conclude that the quantum of the evidence presented in this case is insufficient to support the conclusion that Mason actually realized that she voted knowing that she was ineligible to do so and, therefore, insufficient to support her conviction for illegal voting,” Justice Wade Birdwell wrote in the ruling. The 49-year-old Mason was initially convicted in 2018 after a trial lasting just hours. The highest court in the state reviewed the case in 2022 and told the lower appellate court to reconsider. Mason had remained out of jail on an appeal bond but wound up losing her job at a bank and spent months in federal prison for being arrested for a federal crime while on probation.

“I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no other citizen has to face what I’ve faced and endured for the past seven years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack,” Mason said in an interview Thursday night. “Although I’ve cried for seven years straight, seven nights a week … I’ve also prayed for seven years straight, seven nights a week. Prayed that I would remain a free black woman,” she said in a statement released later. “I am overjoyed to see my faith rewarded today.”

“Crystal and her family have suffered for over six years as the target of a vanity project by Texas political leaders,” said Alison Grinter Allen, a criminal defense attorney who represented Mason. “We’re happy that the court saw this for the perversion of justice that it is, but the harm that this political prosecution has done to shake Americans’ confidence in their own franchise is incalculable.”