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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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'They're locked in!' Brexit-backing Lord says Eurosceptic member states are stuck in EU

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A BREXIT-BACKING Lord has said members of the EU are trapped in the Brussels bloc as Norway considers taking a mini-Brexit.

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Cache of airsoft guns near National Mall prompt big response in jittery U.S. capital

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With Washington on edge over potential right-wing violence and domestic terrorism, a cache of what turned out to be replica toy guns prompted a massive response Saturday near the National Mall.

Two people were detained when authorities said they found a number of guns and rifles in a U-Haul truck parked near the city’s Tidal Basin, which is strolling distance from the White House and the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Park Police said.

But the realistic-looking firearms were airsoft guns and rifles, which shoot nonlethal, plastic pellets at low velocity and are often used for games, tactical training and target practice. They’re generally legal and not regulated as firearms.

The people detained cooperated with officers and were released, said Park Police Sgt. Roselyn Norment.

The Tidal Basin, next to the Potomac River, is surrounded by the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. During the investigation, police closed Maine Avenue between the National Mall and the Wharf, NBC Washington reported.

Medical first responders were staged at the scene as a precaution, the station said.

The area in and around the National Mall has been on high alert since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In August, a man identified as Floyd Ray Roseberry, 49, parked his pickup truck partially on the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress and engaged in an hours-long standoff as he allegedly claimed to have a bomb, although he did not.

Roseberry, who harbored complaints about the federal government, was later charged with threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and threatening to use an explosive device. A judge ordered him to undergo medical evaluation.

Ten days after the Jan. 6 incursion, a Virginia man was arrested at a Washington checkpoint near the Capitol with an “unauthorized” inauguration pass, a gun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

But the suspect, identified as Wesley Allen Beeler, 31, told the Washington Post it was “an honest mistake” because he was licensed to carry in nearby Virginia. He said he had been working as a security guard nearby, in downtown Washington, was running late, and forgot that his gun was in his vehicle.

He denied he had that much ammunition.

“I’m not a bad person,” he said at the time. “I’m not connected to any hate groups.”

Pressure on authorities who police the nation’s most powerful institutions isn’t letting up. A rally at the Capitol to support those arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Michelle Acevedo and Jay Varela contributed.



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Europhiles use Raducanu’s US Open success to brand Brexiteers ‘anti-immigrant hypocrites'

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EUROPHILES have been using Emma Raducanu’s success in the US Open to launch cruel attacks on Brexit voters, it has emerged.

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