Local DA Defends Decision To Appeal Illegal Voting Case

Tarrant County District Attorney Phil Sorrells | Image by Phil Sorrels
Tarrant County District Attorney Phil Sorrells | Image by Phil Sorrels

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office is attempting to re-open the illegal voting case of Crystal Mason, who had her five-year sentence vacated by an appeals court last month.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Mason was arrested after casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election while still being under supervised release for federal tax evasion in 2011. She has maintained that she was unaware that convicted felons were ineligible to cast a vote.

Mason was ultimately handed five years in federal prison for voter fraud plus 10 more months due to having violated the terms of her release. However, the Second District Appeals Court ultimately found that Tarrant County prosecutors had not satisfied the burden of proof that a crime had been committed — namely, proving that Mason knew beyond a reasonable doubt that she could not vote.

Now Tarrant County District Attorney Phil Sorrells wants the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse the appeals court decision that overturned the conviction.

Sorrells defended his office’s decision to appeal the appeals court’s ruling at a commissioners court hearing on Tuesday. The decision, which Mason, who was in attendance, called “overwhelming” and “sickening,” received some pushback, according to KERA News.

The Dallas Express reached out to the DA and was redirected to the office’s press release from last month announcing the motion. It recapped what led to Mason’s conviction for illegal voting in 2018.

“She was convicted based on testimony from the election judge and poll clerk that she read the provisional voter affidavit, affirmed that she provided accurate information, signed the affidavit, and testified that the affidavit language was clearly understandable to mean that a convicted felon, such as herself, was ineligible to vote,” the release read.

It then claimed that the appeals court “misapplied the sufficiency standard of review by not viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s verdict” when it decided to vacate the case.

“The Second Court of Appeals’ publication of its opinion creates the very real risk that future sufficiency cases will likewise be wrongly analyzed and decided,” the release continued.

“I want would-be illegal voters to know that we’re watching,” Sorrells told commissioners on Tuesday, per KERA.

Yet the move was condemned by some community members during the public comment period, with some questioning why the county’s resources and taxpayer money would go towards a case that had already been decided.

Speaking with KERA after the hearing, Mason’s general counsel, Dominique Alexander, suggested Sorrells was misleading the court.

“[Sorrells’ testimony] literally threw out the whole basis of the conviction that Tarrant County even got in the district court,” Alexander said. “But you literally heard a Tarrant County district attorney literally go before the commissioners court, as if the appeals court never gave a ruling.”

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