Fort Worth

Woman sentenced to 8 years for illegal voting heads back to court

Rosa Maria Ortega hugs her daughter Gracie Garza shortly after being released from jail on an appeal bond in early March.
Rosa Maria Ortega hugs her daughter Gracie Garza shortly after being released from jail on an appeal bond in early March. Star-Telegram

Rosa Maria Ortega, the Grand Prairie mother released from jail on March 2 pending appeal of her eight-year sentence for illegal voting, is heading back to court.

Ortega, 37, has been ordered to appear in Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 4 on April 3 on a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement on a voting application. Her attorney, Clark Birdsall, said he was surprised that Ortega, convicted of two felony counts in early February, is being brought back to court on the Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a $2,000 fine.

Birdsall described the latest round of legal maneuvering as a “house-cleaning procedure,” and said he hopes the judge will agree to let the case ride on the court docket through the appeals process.

He said that if the appeal is denied, the state will dismiss the case anyway. If Ortega wins the appeal and is granted a new trial, the county will still have the option to prosecute on the misdemeanor as well as the felony.

If Ortega loses the appeal, she faces deportation upon completion of the sentence.

After posting a $11,111 bond earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement surprisingly pulled her immigration hold, allowing Ortega to reunite with her four children ages 12 to 16, and to remain out of jail during the appeals process.

The misdemeanor charge stems from Ortega, a legal resident and green-card holder, indicating that she was a U.S. citizen on her Tarrant County voting application.

She initially indicated that she was not a citizen, but when informed by the Tarrant County Election Administration that she was not eligible to vote as a noncitizen, she submitted a second application indicating that she was a citizen.

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