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Texas judge sentences woman to 5 years in prison for illegally voting in 2016 presidential election

Crime
A Texas woman was sentenced to five years for voting illegally. (Getty Images)

A Texas judge sentenced a woman to five years in prison on Wednesday for voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election.

What's the story?

Crystal Mason, 43, who was on supervised release at the time after serving nearly three years in federal prison for a fraud conviction in 2011, was ineligible to vote, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Mason told Tarrant County District Judge Ruben Gonzalez that she was given a provisional ballot to use since her name wasn't on the voter roll at her polling place.

Gonzalez asked Mason why she didn't thoroughly read the affidavit she signed to get the provisional ballot.

"There's a legal connotation to that, right?" he asked her.

Mason, who waived her right to a trial, said she didn't read it carefully because the election official was helping her.

She also said that no one including the federal court, her supervision officer, the election workers or the sentencing judge in her fraud case had informed her that she couldn't vote.

"I find it amazing that the government feels she made this up," said J. Warren St. John, Mason's attorney. "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 told the judge that she wouldn't have sacrificed her freedom to vote, adding that she didn't even want to vote, but that her mother insisted, so she did.

What are the voting laws in Texas?

To be eligible to vote in Texas, a person must be 18, a U.S. citizen and cannot be a convicted felon and must not have been declared mentally incapacitated by a court.

"A convicted felon regains the right to vote after completing his or her sentence. Therefore, once you have completed the punishment phase (including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by the court), you would be eligible to register and vote in the state of Texas," according to the Texas voter registration website.

Voters must also present a valid I.D. at the polls.

Why was she convicted of fraud in 2011?

Mason pleaded guilty to a fraud charge that stemmed from a tax preparation business she and her then-husband operated.

"I inflated returns," Mason said in court. "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."

As part of her plea agreement, the judge ordered Mason to pay $4.2 million in restitution, according to court documents.

What else?

Her attorney has filed an appeal and hopes that Mason will be released on bond soon.

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