On June 15, 2013 — high on drugs and with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit — then-16-year-old Ethan Couch decided to take his family's car out for a joyride. That decision ended in tragedy when he plowed into a group of people helping another driver, killing four and injuring nine more.
In the Texas courthouse, a psychologist suggested that Mr. Couch couldn't be held responsible for his actions due to the fact that he grew up with money which had caused him to suffer from "affluenza." Despite having killed four people, Couch was sentenced to a disgraceful 10-year probation — all because he was rich and white.
In that same year, Texas doctor Shafeeq Sheikh walked into a heavily sedated patient's room and proceeded to rape her. Sheikh was only found guilty last month, but he too got off with 10 years probation and no jail time.
Then there is the story of Crystal Mason. Out on probation from a fraud conviction and enjoying her newly found freedom, Mason's mom thought she should exercise her rights by voting in the 2016 presidential elections. So when Election Day came around, she went to her local polling office and filled in her ballot. But that one act has now gotten her into hot water and could keep her in jail for nearly six years.
According to Texas law, people convicted of felonies cannot vote by default, although they may have their voting rights restored after they complete their full sentence, that includes probation. Mason says she was unaware of the law but Texas authorities don't see it that way and have decided to throw the book at her.
Earlier this year, Tarrant County Judge Ruben Gonzalez sentenced the grandmother to a whopping five years in prison. And last month she had another 10 months added on to her sentence for the probation violation. So now Crystal could spend six more years in prison for a simple mistake. A mistake her probation officer even admits could be his fault. At Mrs. Mason's trial, the officer admitted that he had failed to notify her of her voting rights.
In Texas, it seems that justice is anything but blind. The state has allowed two men of privilege to get off virtually scot-free after having committed egregious crimes including murder and rape. Yet when a woman of color unwittingly & illegally votes she must serve more than half a decade behind bars? What good does incarcerating Ms. Mason — a grandmother who after getting out of prison has changed her life and held a good paying job — do for society? Meanwhile, the Texas courts have let two people who have demonstrated that they are a danger to society walk the streets and put even more of us in danger.
Crystal Mason's sentence is unjust and cruel and her family has now been deprived once more of the chance to be whole.
The court system is for justice but Tarrant County Court has used their power for just the opposite. Please sign the petition and ask Tarrant County Judge Ruben Gonzalez to have a heart and reduce Crystal's sentence to time served.