In a case that sounds eerily similar to that of Crystal Mason, a Black Lives Matter activist from Memphis, Tennessee, has been sentenced to six years in prison because voting laws are often unclear and because America loves throwing the lives of Black people away for no real or practical reason.
According to Daily Kos, 44-year-old Pam “P” Moses was sentenced Monday after she was convicted in November for registering to vote while ineligible to do so.
But Moses told The Guardian she simply didn’t know she couldn’t vote. Her confusion was, of course, perfectly understandable to anyone who wasn’t hellbent on putting a Black woman in prison for a non-violent crime others get treated leniently for.
In 2015, Moses pleaded guilty to charges, including stalking, theft, forgery, and tampering with evidence. According to state law, the evidence tampering charge rendered her ineligible to vote ever again. But Moses said she didn’t know that because she wasn’t informed of it at trial.
“They never mentioned anything about voting. They never mentioned anything about not voting, being able to vote…none of that,” she said.
Moses’ voting eligibility came into question in 2019 when she tried to run for mayor and was asked for proof of her right to vote. That’s when she found out her voting rights had been revoked. She even filed an official Certificate of Restoration of Voting Rights, along with her voter registration, with the Shelby County Election Commission. And that’s when the court started playing in her face.
Moses asked the court if she was still on probation and the court determined that she was. But Moses wasn’t satisfied with the judge’s conclusion, and for good reason. Because when she asked her probation officer for a second opinion, that probation officer confirmed that her probation had ended and filled out and signed a certificate confirming it.
“In Tennessee, once a felon receives that certificate, they are allowed to vote,” Daily Kos reported. So Moses submitted the document to election officials and all was right in her world—until it wasn’t.
The day after she submitted her certificate, Moses got an email telling her that the probation officer was incorrect and the certificate was given to her in “error.” Because of that supposed “error,” she ended up back in court facing charges of perjury and falsifying election fraud charges.
Even if her probation officer did make a mistake—and, at this point, that’s a huge “if”—how is that her fault and why should she face charges over an error?
Well, prosecutors claimed she filed the certificate knowing she was on probation, despite the very certificate in question, a signed legal document, stating that she wasn’t.
Blair Bowie, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center who is working to challenge voter suppression in Tennessee, is calling bulls**t on the prosecution’s assertions.
“That seems absurd to me on its face,” Bowie said. “The instructions on the certificate of restoration form are very clear to the probation officer or the clerk. They say you will check these records and you will sign off on this based on what the records say. They’re saying that she tricked the probation officer into filling out this form for her. That creates a really scary prospect for people who think they’re being wrongly told they’re not eligible.”
And that’s exactly what prosecutor Amy Weirich reportedly argued—that Moses somehow “tricked” a probation officer into not knowing their job and signing off on the certificate. Weirich also claimed Moses “refused to file the correct paperwork and fraudulently voted multiple times, an allegation Moses vehemently denies,” according to Daily Kos.
“I did not falsify anything,” Moses said in court Monday. “All I did was try to get my rights to vote back the way the people at the election commission told me and the way the clerk did.”
She also said she had no idea the evidence tampering charge meant she would never be allowed to vote again.
“They included that charge on my indictment because (Weirich) knew that would keep me from voting forever and running from public office,” Moses told WREG.
If you’ve read this whole thing and you’re still wondering what “crime” Moses committed that’s worth throwing her in prison for six years, all you need to do is remember Mason, remember the effort conservatives put into keeping Black people from the ballot box and remember that throwing Black lives away is simply what America does.