DALLAS — Editor's note: The video above is a WFAA report from 2019 when Mason was released from prison after 10 months.
A Texas woman who was convicted of illegal voting and went to prison in 2018 should have her case re-examined by a lower court, according to the top appeals court in Texas.
Crystal Mason, of Rendon, voted in the 2016 presidential election, but she was on supervised release from federal prison for tax fraud. In Texas, felons can't vote until they complete their full sentence. She claimed she didn't know she was breaking the law.
On Wednesday, Texas’ highest criminal court ruled partially in favor of Mason. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a lower court “erred” in failing to require proof that Mason knew it was a crime when she filled out a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election.
Mason's case was sent back to a lower court, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, for review and to re-examine the evidence.
Mason was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for violating the terms of her release, WFAA reported. In September of 2018, with her journal and books in hand, she said goodbye to her family and began her prison term. She was released in 2019, but a state judge had also sentenced her to five years for the same thing. Mason has been appealing that state ruling ever since.
"I'm still fighting my state case, and I'm just so happy to be home," Mason told WFAA in 2019.
An appeals court upheld that ruling in 2020, but the Court of Criminal Appeals serves as a feather in Mason's cap.
Mason's case drew national attention in 2018, as many civil rights leaders and supporters of Mason said her punishment was too severe.
"Certainly the punishment is quite extreme,” Civil rights attorney Kim Cole told WFAA in 2018. “And do I believe it was racially motivated? Absolutely.”
At a news conference Thursday, May 12, 2022 at Friendship West Baptist Church, Mason and her attorneys reacted to the new ruling in her case.
“I am grateful for what the Court of Criminal Appeals did. But it's not at ease,” Mason said, with her attorneys and Friendship West pastor Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III by her side.
“This journey is not over for me. And I'm just hoping they get it right this time. Because this has been not only a strain on me, but my family too. So, this is really emotional for me right now, because I'm still living it. I'm still in this fight."
"From the moment this entire mess started, Crystal has consistently maintained that she did not know that she was not eligible to vote," attorney Kim T. Cole said. "Texas law is clear. It requires knowledge. Crystal did not have that knowledge. Therefore Crystal is not guilty. She never was. And we should not be here."
Her attorneys say the Second Court of Criminal Appeals overlooked the “knowledge” aspect of the case.
“And the fact that they’ve never done that and the evidence does not exist, it’s time for us to walk away from this charade, and let her leave this nightmare so she can move on with her life,” said attorney Justin Moore.