Monday, June 11, 2018

One Colony, One Nation, One Travesty

Judge Who Handed Down Five Year Jail Sentence For Improper Voting Filed Inaccurate Data in 2013 Campaign Finance Report

In his excellent book, A Colony in a Nation, author Chris Hayes chronicles the disparities in law enforcement within two population cohorts within America. There is the Colony which is mostly poor, and then there is the Nation, which is mostly affluent. Although the citizens of the Colony pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes than do the citizens of the Nation, it is the Nation that derives most of the benefits of the law enforcement apparatus while the colony is mostly forced to bear its ire. This is so because in the electoral process that determines which candidates will ultimately govern our society, the citizens of the Nation are encouraged to vote; while the opposite is true of the citizens of the Colony.

In March of this year, Judge Ruben Gonzalez of the 432nd District Court in Fort Worth, TX  sentenced Crystal Mason, --a mother of four-- to five years in prison for allegedly voting illegally in the 2016 Presidential election . The irony in this case is that Judge Gonzalez has himself had at least one very similar misunderstanding of Texas election law.

Within the July 15th, 2013 campaign finance report that Judge Gonzalez filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, he filed a correction affidavit which states the following:

The reported total regarding the balance on hand was incorrect. However, the underlying information regarding the contributions and expense during the reporting period are correct and unchanged. The oversight is lack of understanding of how the reporting program operates. The balance of the account is $16,416.30.
Source : Texas Ethics Commission  
Report 581493

Now let's think about this for a moment; shall we? The key phrase in the above paragraph that relates to the extremely harsh and unfair sentence that Judge Gonzalez handed down to Crystal Mason is The oversight is lack of understanding of how the reporting program operates. If a simple lack of understanding is Judge Gonzalez's only excuse for filing false information on a campaign finance report, then what gives him the right to send a mother of four to prison for five years for her lack of understanding of how the election system in Texas works?

The answer is simple. Judge Gonzalez resides in The Nation; while Crystal Mason resides in The Colony. If a resident of The Nation makes a clerical error -- even if it is something as serious as filing false information on a campaign finance report -- even if he is a judge with years of legal training and should have known better, the only consequences that he will suffer is the inconvenience of having to spend 20 minutes of their time filling out a correction affidavit.

Compare that to a person with no legal training who has been standing in line an hour or so just to exercise her right to vote, only to be told that she is not on the "list of eligible voters." She is then handed a provisional ballot and told that her vote may or may not be counted. She is also handed an affidavit with a bunch of legal terms on it which she may or may not understand and told that she needs to sign that as well if she wants to even be able to cast the provisional ballot. All the while, people are standing in line behind her so they can cast their vote and get back to work

Welcome to The Colony.

So what is the solution to this injustice? Should the state of Texas strip Judge Gonzalez of his position and sentence him to five years in prison because he misunderstood part of the electoral process? Should Crystal Mason be granted clemency in an effort to grant equal treatment under the law -- as the U.S. Constitution guarantees ALL American citizens -- both those of The Colony and of The Nation? Neither of these outcomes is likely.

Despite briefs filed by two civil rights groups citing a 2002 federal statute outlining the right to cast a provisional ballot, Judge Gonzalez just denied Crystal Mason's petition for a new trial. Mason's attorney says they plan to file an appeal with the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth.

Stay tuned.

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