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BLM chapter founder sentenced to prison for voter fraud; NAACP laments 'two criminal justice systems in America'

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Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Pamela Moses, an activist who founded the Black Lives Matter chapter in Memphis, was sentenced to prison last week after she was found guilty of voter fraud.

What are the details?

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich announced last Monday that Moses was sentenced to six years and one day in prison after being convicted last November of illegally registering to vote in Tennessee.

In 2015, Moses pleaded guilty to multiple felonies — tampering with evidence and forgery — and a host of misdemeanors: perjury, stalking, theft under $500, and escape. She was sentenced to seven years' probation for her crimes, but more significantly, Moses was "permanently deemed ineligible to register and vote in Tennessee" because of the tampering with evidence conviction, Weirich explained.

But in September 2019, Moses filed a voter registration application with the Shelby County Election Commission. At the time, she was running for mayor of Memphis, but was still on probation. By filing the application to vote and an accompanying certificate of restoration, Moses was "falsely asserting that her sentence had expired and that she was eligible to register to vote," according to Weirich.

Moses has maintained her innocence, but Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward did not buy it.

"You tricked the probation department into giving you documents saying you were off probation," Ward told Moses last week.

Despite Moses only admitting to having registered to vote but maintaining that she never actually voted, Ward condemned Moses for having "voted six times as a convicted felon," the Washington Post noted.

What was the reaction?

The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund said the case demonstrates how "there are two criminal justice systems in America," characterizing Moses' case as a "voting error."

The charges stem from purported confusion over Moses' voting eligibility.

According to the Washington Post, the Tennessee Department of Corrections approved a form on Sept. 3, 2019, to restore Moses' rights; the form was also approved by Shelby County Election Commission. However, the next day, the Department of Corrections contacted the Election Commission explaining the form had been incorrectly approved and that Moses, in fact, remained ineligible to vote.

Moses' supporters also maintain that Moses was unaware of her permanent ineligibility to vote.

However, a letter from Joe Young, the chief deputy administrator of elections in Shelby County, revealed in a letter that Moses was in fact informed on Sept. 4, 2019, that she was "permanently ineligible to register [to] vote based on the felony conviction."

Moses will appeal her sentencing.

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