Black Woman Sent To Prison For Violating Voting Booth While On Probation
Voter fraud, it turns out, is not just something that takes place in the raccoon-infested Grey Gardens residence that serves as Donald Trump's mind. It is a very real scourge on the nation. Case in point is criminal mastermind Crystal Mason of Rendon, Texas. She voted when she shouldn't have. Now she's going down hard.
Crystal Mason, 43, of Rendon, who was convicted in state court in March of illegal voting, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison Thursday for violating the terms of her parole that were issued in a 2011 tax fraud case.
She was also given two years and two months of probation in the case. Mason has two weeks to get her affairs in order before reporting to federal prison to begin her sentence, U.S. District Judge John McBryde ruled on Thursday.
Mason is one of 500,000 Texans and 6 million Americans nationally who've lost their right to vote. That's crappy enough and needs to change, but why is Texas acting like Mason stole a loaf of bread in Victor Hugo's France? Mason wasn't acting maliciously. She was on parole and claimed she didn't realize Texas felons couldn't vote until they'd completely finished their sentences. She went on to say that a poll worker told her the vote would either be "counted or not" and helped her through the paperwork. If you try to rob a bank, the teller doesn't shrug and say you can either "keep the money or not. Who the hell knows? Now fill this out, please."
Unless she voted for Jill Stein or, worse, wrote in "Mickey Mouse" (I hate that crap), what crime did she really commit here? It's not like she was a Russian spy trying to influence the outcome of the election under orders from a hostile nation. But Judge McBryde pointed to a laundry list of past crimes Mason had committed going back to when she was just 17 (you know what I mean), including attempted arson and passing off forged checks. Mason is no "angel," but that has nothing to do with why she's going back to prison.
One can reasonably argue that making the effort to vote and participate in the democratic process is a positive step toward rehabilitation. Shockingly few Texans vote anyway. When Mason committed her "vote heist" in the 2016 elections, Texas ranked 47 out of 50 states plus DC in turnout. The state also ranks 44 out 51 in overall voter registration.
Mason clearly wasn't one of Debbie Ocean's crew lured back for one last "big job." Perhaps realizing that, Judge McBryde told Mason he was giving her a "break" and sending her away for 10 months instead of two years. That kinda feels like that sort of "break" that comes at the end of a hangman's noose, but whatever. That's less time away from her kids for her totally non-malicious act.
Now, someone who got a real "break" was Terri Lynn Rotte of Des Moines, Iowa, who deliberately tried to vote for Donald Trump twice (frankly, just once is criminal enough). She claims she feared the first vote would be changed to one for Hillary Clinton. Trump's "rigged election" rhetoric put this into her probably already pretty messed up head, but hey, there's no collusion, right? This wasn't an accident like Mason. She intentionally broke the law. But Rote's past was pearly white enough that she got off with with two years probation and a $750 fine. They'll even Men In Black away the conviction from her record once she finishes probation.
A North Carolina prosecutor didn't even bring charges against a 67-year-old woman who cast a vote on her dead mother's behalf for Trump. Even if the dead woman told Whoopi Goldberg at a seance that she wanted Trump to beat "Crooked Hillary," this is still against the law. The prosecutor wouldn't release the woman's name but it's safe to assume she's white because she voted for Trump and she's not currently on death row.
Steve Curtis, actual Colorado GOP chairman, was sentenced to just probation and community service for willingly committing voter fraud. He filled out his ex-wife's ballot under what he claimed were the effects of a major "diabetic episode." Yes, it is the Twinkie Defense come roaring back to life like a Trump voter's dead mom.
The Daily Caller, of course, believes Mason's sentence is just and not at all racist. This should surprise no one, but it does reflect how many on the right view these cases. Mason's true crime was literally voting at all, whereas her white counterparts went out of their way to corrupt the electoral process. One guess what concerns Trump and his supporters more whenever they talk about "voter fraud."
These cases also reveal the influence of prosecutorial discretion to bring charges at all and the judge's power to hand out a lighter sentence than suggested (as in the Colorado case). Even Stevie Wonder can see that white and black Americans are handled differently in the system for remarkably similar offenses. Black people are criminals who are treated as such. White people just make honest mistakes. Brock Turner, after all, got just six months in prison for raping a woman, but I guess Crystal Mason never swam for Stanford.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.