A Tarrant County woman who was a convicted felon found guilty of voting illegally is going back to prison.
A federal judge in Fort Worth said Crystal Mason must serve 10 months in prison for violating terms of her felony release for another case. She'd been out on a conditional release since March while she appealed the five-year prison sentence for voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election.
Prosecutors say Mason was ineligible to vote because she was had not finished her sentence for a multi-million-dollar tax fraud conviction in 2012.
Mason headed into court Thursday with the support of her legal team and a small group of protesters who remained outside chanting and waving signs. She addressed the court and told the judge she had been focused on turning her life around. She said she had a good job and was going to cosmetology school.
The judge followed that with his ruling -- 10 months in prison and 26 months of supervised release following her time behind bars. The judge noted several other cases in her background as the reasoning for giving her prison time.
"She is 43 years old and the judge went back to when she was 17 to justify this draconian punishment that he issued for her. So there's no real basis for her serving prison time of 10 months,” said Justin Moore, Mason’s attorney.
But after the ruling, Mason’s attorneys called it political, saying the DA’s Office in a very red county is making an example of her.
"The Republican agenda here in Tarrant County has turned Crystal Mason into a politicized agenda,” said Dominique Alexander with the Next Generation Action Network.
But FOX 4 pointed out to her attorney's the case of Rosa Ortega last year. She was convicted in Tarrant County of illegal voting and sentenced to eight years behind bars. In a jailhouse interview, Ortega said she always voted Republican.
Mason’s attorneys point out both of the cases are against minorities.
"This is tantamount to someone being sent to prison because they didn't understand the fine print on some of their mortgage documents,” said attorney Alison Grinter.
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office had no problem with the judge’s decision.
“The DA’s office has said that we will not apologize for enforcing the laws of the State of Texas. It is against state law for a person on federal supervised release to vote in Texas. We believe it is not an ‘accidental vote’ when the voter drives herself to the polling place and votes after signing a warning against illegal voting and after being warned not to vote by her defense attorney,” said Matt Smid, DA’s office chief on white collar crime/public integrity.
Mason was allowed two weeks to get her affairs in order. She will report to a yet to be determined federal prison on Sept. 13.