A black mother currently in federal custody for parole violation recently garnered national attention and renewed interest in her case, thanks to a prominent civil rights activist and a recent charge levied by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
The infraction? Violating sewage disposal laws, a Class B Misdemeanor, according to a county spokesperson. That case was filed February 4 and dropped days later following public uproar and concern expressed by a local NAACP director.
Crystal Mason, the mother in question, was found guilty of casting an illegal ballot in the 2016 presidential race. Mason was on probation at the time for a 2012 tax fraud conviction when she inked Hillary Clinton as her preferred presidential candidate. Texas voter laws restrict convicted felons from voting while they are still completing probation or parole. Mason said she didn’t know she was violating state election laws. A state court disagreed and sentenced Mason to five years in prison. That sentence, prosecuted by Matt Smid, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, was described as an egregious injustice by community and civil rights leaders at the time. Voting under your own name should not send anyone to jail, they said, especially when xenophobic politicians in Republican-controlled state legislatures get off scot-free after disenfranchising minorities through voter ID laws, gerrymandered districts, and roll purges. The nonpartisan public policy institute Brennan Center for Justice recently said that ultra-strict voting laws have created the “worst voter suppression” that this country has seen in decades.
That civil rights activist, Shaun King, spotlighted the recent sewage charge on social media on February 5. His Facebook post was shared more than 1,500 times.
“Just received some truly awful news,” King wrote. Mason was eligible for transfer to a residential facility, he claimed, but “the DA of Tarrant County is charging her with another crime, a sewage violation from 2018.”
We were unable to confirm if Mason was indeed eligible for transfer and how the sewage charge may have impacted her relocation. Sam Jordan, Tarrant County district attorney spokesperson, only said that Mason is “in federal custody.”
The sewage case “was dismissed,” Jordan said, “because the defendant is already serving a prison sentence.”
Jordan confirmed that Alisa Simmons, president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, had contacted District Attorney Sharen Wilson to express concern over the sewage charge.
Simmons told us that “to file a charge and cause a warrant to be issued for such an obscure offense under the Texas Water Code, just before Ms. Mason’s release to a residential facility, constitutes an abuse of power as well as an abuse of discretion.”
The dropped charge is of little consolation to Mason’s supporters, who will not rest until she is freed from jail. The mother, who was only months away from freedom before she had the misfortune of voting illegally under her actual name, is raising money to pay for the appeal of her case. She is nearly $24,000 toward her GoFundMe goal of $80,000.