Mason v. State, No. 02-18-00138-CR

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Justice Birdwell
Citation598 S.W.3d 755
Decision Date19 March 2020
Docket NumberNo. 02-18-00138-CR
Parties Crystal MASON, Appellant v. The STATE of Texas

598 S.W.3d 755

Crystal MASON, Appellant
v.
The STATE of Texas

No. 02-18-00138-CR

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fort Worth.

Delivered: March 19, 2020


ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: ALISON GRINTER, DALLAS, TEXAS, KIM T. COLE, FRISCO, TEXAS, REBECCA HARRISON STEVENS & EMMA HILBERT, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT, AUSTIN, TEXAS, HANI MIRZA, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT, DALLAS, TEXAS, SOPHIA LIN LAKIN, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, NEW YORK, NEW YORK, THOMAS BUSER-CLANCY & ANDREW SEGURA, ACLU FOUNDATION OF TEXAS, INC., HOUSTON, TEXAS.

ATTORNEYS FOR STATE: SHAREN WILSON, CRIMINAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY; JOSEPH W. SPENCE, ASSISTANT CRIMINAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CHIEF OF POST-CONVICTION; HELENA F. FAULKNER, MATT SMID & JOHN NEWBERN, ASSISTANT CRIMINAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, TARRANT COUNTY DISTRICT, ATTORNEYS OFFICE, FORT WORTH, TEXAS.

Before Kerr, Birdwell, and Bassel, JJ.

OPINION

Opinion by Justice Birdwell

I. Introduction

Having waived a jury trial, Appellant Crystal Mason appeals from her conviction by the trial court for illegal voting, a second-degree felony, see Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 64.012(a)(1), (b), and her sentence of five years' confinement. Mason raises the following challenges to her conviction and sentence: (1) the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the guilt finding; (2) Texas's illegal-voting statute is preempted by the part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that grants the right to cast a provisional ballot, 52 U.S.C.A. § 21082(a) (West 2015); (3) her conviction resulted from ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) the illegal-voting

598 S.W.3d 763

statute is unconstitutionally vague as applied to her. We will affirm.

II. Background

A. Mason voted in the 2004 and 2008 general elections in Tarrant County, Texas.

In the 2004 general election, Mason filled out an Affidavit of Provisional Voter form promulgated by the Texas Secretary of State, in which she listed her Tarrant County address in Everman, birthdate, social security number, and driver's license number; she also checked a box saying that she is a United States citizen. The affidavit form has two parts: a right side with blanks in which the provisional voter completes the above-described information and a left side that includes affirmations that the voter is "a registered voter of th[e] political subdivision and in the precinct" in which the person is attempting to vote and that the voter has "not been finally convicted of a felony or if a felon, ... [has] completed all ... punishment including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, [or] period of probation, or ... [has] been pardoned."1 Her completion of this form served as an application to register to vote in Tarrant County from that point forward. See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 65.056(a) ("If the affidavit on the envelope of a rejected provisional ballot contains the information necessary to enable the person to register to vote under Chapter 13, the voter registrar shall make a copy of the affidavit ... [and] treat the copy as an application for registration...."). Tarrant County accepted the application and registered her as a voter. Mason later voted in the November 2008 general and special elections in Tarrant County as a registered voter, but she had moved by then and had a different Tarrant County address (the Rendon address).

B. Mason pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy felony, and the federal district court sentenced her to a maximum term of five years' imprisonment followed by a maximum term of three years' supervised release.

On November 23, 2011, Mason pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 371 (tax fraud), a Class D felony. 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 371, 3559(a)(4) (West 2015). A person convicted of this offense is subject to a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum term of post-imprisonment supervised release of three years. Id. §§ 371, 3559(b), 3581(b)(4), 3583(a), (b)(2) (West 2015). On March 19, 2012, a federal district judge found her guilty and sentenced her to the maximum term of both: five years' imprisonment and three years' supervised release "upon release from imprisonment." Mason did not appeal but later filed a postconviction motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the

598 S.W.3d 764

sentence under 28 U.S.C.A. § 2255. United States v. Mason-Hobbs , Nos. 4:13-CV-078-A, 04:11-CR-151-A-1, 2013 WL 1339195, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 3, 2013) (mem. op. and order), aff'd , 579 Fed. App'x 248, 248–49 (5th Cir. 2014).2

As grounds for the motion, Mason alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel and sought a reduction in her sentence. But the district court denied the motion, making it clear that Mason had avoided a much stiffer sentence3 only through the "exceptionally good" representation of her trial counsel. Id. at *2–6. Thus, there is no question that Mason's federal conviction had become final by at least 2013.

C. Upon Mason's federal felony conviction, her local elections authority cancelled her voter registration.

Upon Mason's conviction, the prosecuting United States Attorney had to give written notice of her conviction to the Texas Secretary of State, the "chief State election official" under Section 20507(g)(1) of the National Voting Rights Act ("NVRA"). 52 U.S.C.A. §§ 20507(g)(1), 20509 (West 2015) ; see Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 31.001(a) ("The secretary of state is the chief election officer of the state."); Cascos v. Tarrant Cty. Democratic Party , 473 S.W.3d 780, 786 (Tex. 2015) ("The secretary of state is the state's chief election officer responsible for ensuring the uniform application and interpretation of election laws throughout Texas."). The NVRA-mandated notice includes the following information for the convicted person: name, age, residence address, date of entry of the judgment of conviction, description of the offenses of which the individual was convicted, and sentence imposed. 52 U.S.C.A. § 20507(g)(2) (West 2015). Moreover, the NVRA mandates that the Texas Secretary of State provide the same information to the "voter registration officials of the local jurisdiction" in which the convicted person resides. Id. § 20507(g)(5).

In accordance with the NVRA's requirements, the Tarrant County Elections Administration ("TCEA") ultimately received an April 26, 2013 report from the Texas Secretary of State, which included 2012 federal felony sentences for Texas residents, including Mason's. In addition to the NVRA-mandated information, the report included the last four digits of Mason's social security number. More particularly, for all federal felony sentences, the report identified the specific United States Attorney's office providing the information and included columns for the date of the sentence,

598 S.W.3d 765

the charges made the basis of the conviction, the months of custody, and the years of supervised release. For Mason, the report confirmed a March 20124 conviction pursuant to 18 U.S.C.A. § 371 for "[c]onspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US" with a sentence of sixty months in federal custody and three years of supervised release. Finally, the report listed Mason's home address as the Rendon address.

After receiving the report, the TCEA mailed a Notice of Examination dated May 22, 2013, to Mason at the Rendon address indicating that it was examining her voter registration because it had received information about her felony conviction. The notice also informed Mason that if she did not reply within thirty days providing "adequate information or documentation" establishing her qualifications to remain registered, her registration would be cancelled. See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 16.033 (providing for cancellation of voter registration following investigation of eligibility).

On June 25, 2013, the TCEA mailed Mason a Notice of Cancellation of Voter Registration to the Rendon address indicating that because Mason had not responded to the Notice of Examination, her voter registration in Tarrant County had been cancelled. See id. § 16.031(a)(3) (providing for immediate cancellation of registration on receipt of "an abstract of a final judgment of the voter's ... conviction of a felony"). The notice further indicated that she was entitled to a hearing on written request and that she could appeal any adverse decision by petitioning for review in a state district court. See id. § 16.036.

It is undisputed that the TCEA mailed both notices to the Rendon address while Mason was serving her sixty-month term of imprisonment in federal custody. Mason denied ever having received the notices. But neither were ever returned to the TCEA. Upon cancelling Mason's Tarrant County voter registration, the TCEA changed her registration status to "cancelled" in its computerized voter-registration system and, specific to her registration status, added a reference to the Texas Secretary of State's 2012 report of federal felony sentences in the "Comments" section: "SOS Felon List."

D. After completing her sixty-month term of imprisonment and during her...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 practice notes
  • Ray v. Recovery Healthcare Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:19-CV-3055-G
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • March 22, 2021
    ...or the administrative ruling declining to shorten it."). Such facts are distinguishable than the ones at bar. 16. In Mason v. State, 598 S.W.3d 755 (Tex. App. - Fort Worth 2020, pet. filed), the Texas Court of Appeals concluded that "a person who has been convicted by a federal court and th......
  • Blankenship v. State, 02-20-00157-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 14, 2022
    ...construction is a question of law which we review de novo. Lang v. State, 561 S.W.3d 174, 180 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018); Mason v. State, 598 S.W.3d 755, 767 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2020, pet. granted). The term "treated lumber" is not defined in the Clean Air Act or in any of the applicable TCEQ......
2 cases
  • Ray v. Recovery Healthcare Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:19-CV-3055-G
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • March 22, 2021
    ...or the administrative ruling declining to shorten it."). Such facts are distinguishable than the ones at bar. 16. In Mason v. State, 598 S.W.3d 755 (Tex. App. - Fort Worth 2020, pet. filed), the Texas Court of Appeals concluded that "a person who has been convicted by a federal court and th......
  • Blankenship v. State, 02-20-00157-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 14, 2022
    ...construction is a question of law which we review de novo. Lang v. State, 561 S.W.3d 174, 180 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018); Mason v. State, 598 S.W.3d 755, 767 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2020, pet. granted). The term "treated lumber" is not defined in the Clean Air Act or in any of the applicable TCEQ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT