Civil Rights Groups Will Help Crystal Mason Appeal 5-Year Prison Sentence For Voting

Crystal Mason, center, convicted for illegal voting and sentenced to 5 years in prison, sitting at the defense table in Ruben Gonzalez's court, State District Court 432 at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth, TX, Friday, May 25, 2018.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Civil Rights Project announced Friday they will help represent Crystal Mason, a Texas woman sentenced to five years in prison for illegally voting, as she seeks a new trial.

The assistance from the two groups means Mason will be represented by some of the top voting rights attorneys in the country, including Dale Ho, the ACLU’s top voting rights lawyer. Attorneys from both groups will assist Alison Grinter and Kim Cole, Mason’s current attorneys.REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES.Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.Support HuffPost

The groups’ decision is a sign of the national significance of the case, which has drawn outcry for the severity of Mason’s sentence. Mason was convicted in 2018 of illegally voting in Texas while on supervised release for a previous federal felony conviction. She maintains she had no idea she was ineligible.

Mason said she was excited to have both groups join her legal team.

“I am very grateful and I hope that justice will prevail here,” she said in a statement.

Because Mason was convicted of a crime while on federal supervised release, she was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison in addition to the five-year sentence she received in the state case. She was released from federal prison last week and is currently staying at a halfway house.

Mason’s lawyers told the Court of Appeals in November she deserves a new trial because the statute she was convicted under is vague, and that the ballot she cast ultimately did not count since it was a provisional ballot. They also argue that she received ineffective counsel from her trial attorney. Oral argument is set for the case on June 4 in Fort Worth.

“The prosecution of Crystal Mason for the innocent mistake of casting a provision ballot that wasn’t even counted is a severe injustice,” Andre Segura, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas who will help represent Mason, said in a statement. “Ms. Mason simply attempted to follow the law and participate in what she believed to be her civic duty, and in return has been sentenced to an outrageous length of time in prison.”

The attorneys joining Mason’s legal team have worked on some of the most high-profile cases in the country in recent years. Both groups recently successfully stopped Texas from reviewing the status of suspected noncitizens on the voter rolls