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Judge denies new trial for Texas woman sentenced to 5 years for illegal voting

Mitch Mitchell, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in News & Features

FORT WORTH, Texas -- The same judge who originally sentenced her to five years in prison for casting an illegal ballot while being a felon under supervision has denied Crystal Mason's motion for a new trial.

Mason, of Rendon, south of Fort Worth, was convicted March 28 and sentenced to a five-year prison stint by State District Judge Ruben Gonzalez.

Gonzalez denied her petition late Monday in a 16-page ruling.

Since her conviction, Mason has been at the center of controversial arguments about the existence of white privilege and voter suppression efforts, with more than 38,000 signatures on a petition to have all charges against her dropped, numerous news stories and editorials and a deluge of social media posts in support of and against the sentence imposed in her case.

Mason's attorney, Alison Grinter, said that she and other groups who thought the prison sentence was harsh were disappointed. Obviously, it was an uphill struggle to get the judge who made the initial ruling to change his mind.

But no one is more disappointed than Mason, Grinter said.

"She's one step closer to going to prison for a vote that didn't even count," Grinter said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get this case before fresh eyes in the appellate court and have a better outcome."

The Tarrant County district attorney's office vigorously opposed the new trial motion during a March 25 hearing and in a brief in support of the state's position.

Matt Smid, the prosecutor trying Mason's case, argued in his court filing that the judge does not have the authority to consider a friend of the court brief from the Texas Civil Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas.

The civil rights groups' brief states that the law that convicted Mason is trumped by a 2002 federal statute that gives an individual who believes that he or she has voting privileges the right to cast a provisional ballot in a federal election, shifting the burden of proof to the state.

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