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Texas woman gets 5 years in prison for voting illegally

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A Texas woman was sentenced to five years behind bars this week for voting illegally in the 2016 election while on supervised release from federal prison.

Crystal Mason, 43, testified in court that she did not know that she was ineligible to vote due to her 2011 fraud conviction before casting a provisional ballot in the presidential election. In Texas, knowingly voting illegally is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

 Crystal Mason was sentenced to a five year prison sentence this week, after she tried to vote while on supervised release from federal prison, in Tarrant County, Texas. Tarrant County Jail

“A second degree felony for voting illegally? That’s outrageous,” J. Warren St. John, her defense attorney, told NBC News on Friday. “The punishment does not fit this crime.”

Texas’ ballot asks voters to certify that they have completed their sentences — including supervision — if they have previously been convicted of a felony. Mason testified in court that she did not read the fine print because an election worker was helping her with the provisional ballot.

“She voted in good faith,” St. John said, noting that she accurately filled out her own information and wasn’t trying to obscure her identity. “She didn’t intentionally vote illegally and that’s the whole issue.”

Mason had pleaded guilty in 2011 to inflating tax returns while working as a tax preparer and was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison, according to her attorney. She had served roughly three years before being released in 2016.

St. John said that Mason was never told in court, prison, or her halfway house that she couldn’t vote until the entirety of her sentence was complete. Her probation officer also testified in court that he had not told her she couldn’t vote.

Mason is appealing the judge’s ruling, and out on bond pending that appeal. Because the crime is also a violation of her supervised release, she could still be arrested by federal authorities and sentenced to additional federal jail time for violating the terms of her release. St. John said federal court had not yet issued a warrant over the violation, however.

Mason is not the first to receive a severe sentence for voting illegally. A Texas resident and Mexican citizen with a green card, Rosa Maria Ortega, was sentenced to eight years in prison for casting an illegal ballot. Ortega had even served as a poll worker, and she, too, reportedly said she did not know she couldn’t vote.

Still, not everyone gets hard time. A North Carolina prosecutor declined to bring charges against a woman who said she cast an illegal vote for Donald Trump in order to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. “She made a mistake out of sheer ignorance without any intent to defraud or commit a crime,” the prosecutor said, according to a local report.

An estimated 6.1 million Americans are disenfranchised by a felony conviction, something many states are rethinking as those numbers continue to rise alongside skyrocketing incarceration rates.

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Remainers lose faith in EU and support Brexit after bloc's bitter vaccine threats

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Brussels’ bitter vaccine threats have convinced angry Remainers to turn their backs on the European Union and support Brexit, research has revealed.

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Biden, Congress to pay tribute to slain Capitol Police officer

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans, who was killed earlier this month when a man rammed his car into him and another officer at the Capitol, will lie in honor in the building’s Rotunda on Tuesday.

Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force, will be the fourth Capitol Police officer to ever lie in honor. The arrival ceremony is set for 10:30 a.m.

At 11 a.m., President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will pay tribute to Evans at a congressional ceremony inside the Rotunda. The officer’s family, along with members of the Capitol Police and Congress, are also expected to attend.

“In giving his life to protect our Capitol and our country, Officer Evans became a martyr for our democracy,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement, adding it was “the great and solemn privilege of the House of Representatives and the Senate to convey the appreciation and the sadness of the Congress and country for the heroic sacrifice of Officer Evans with a lying-in-honor ceremony in the U.S. Capitol.”

Evans, who was known as “Billy,” served with Capitol Police since 2003 and was working in the first responders Unit. He leaves behind two young children.

He was killed on April 2 when a man drove a car into him and another officer before hitting a security barricade outside the Capitol. The man, 25-year-old Noah Green, of Indiana, got out of the vehicle and lunged at the officers with a knife before being shot and killed by police, acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said.

The memorial for Evans comes three months after the attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, which resulted in the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. His remains were also laid in honor in the Rotunda. Another Capitol Police officer, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide in the days after the riot.



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EU army setback: Brussels' 'joint military ambitions' hit as defence budgets are slashed

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AN EU defence chief has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has weakened the bloc’s joint military ambitions.

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