Elections

She got 5 years for voting illegally. This judge got probation for rigging his election

Justice of the Peace convicted of tampering with a government record

Russ Casey, Tarrant County Precinct 3 J.P., resigned immediately after his conviction Monday morning, April 23. He was accused of falsely witnessing all signatures on his petition for election.
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Russ Casey, Tarrant County Precinct 3 J.P., resigned immediately after his conviction Monday morning, April 23. He was accused of falsely witnessing all signatures on his petition for election.

As news spread Monday that Tarrant Justice of the Peace Russ Casey pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record — in the wake of his signing off on fake signatures to secure a spot on the March 6 primary ballot — one question arose for many.

Why did this elected official receive probation when women found guilty of election fraud received jail time?

"We know that there is a great amount of racial disparity in sentencing, but this is a pretty stark comparison to illustrate that," said Emily Farris, a political science professor at TCU. "We know that voter fraud is fairly uncommon and pretty rare.

"I find it a little disheartening when there is a real case of fraud ... abusing the public's trust, that this incident has a different outcome than the other ones."

Farris tweeted out her opinion on the issue, which ended up being shared thousands of times.

"A Black woman mistakenly votes in an election in which she thought was allowed to but wasn't: 5 YEARS IN JAIL," she posted on Twitter. "A white male politician commits fraud to win an election in the same county: PROBATION."

Last month, a judge sentenced Crystal Mason of Rendon to five years in prison for illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election while she was on probation from an earlier fraud conviction.

And in 2017, Rosa Maria Ortega, a Grand Prairie mother of four, was convicted of illegally voting and sentenced to eight years in prison. Ortega, who has a green card, was sentenced for illegally voting in the 2012 general election and the 2014 Republican primary runoff.

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Direct Action Texas, a political advocacy group, was among those to question Casey's sentence.

"Are we all equal or do different citizens enjoy special privileges and benefits?" asked a post — "In Tarrant, it's good to be white, rich and Republican" — by the group. "Here is a story about how one person, an elected official, gets privileges above and beyond the normal citizens."

When asked about Casey's sentence as compared to the sentences these two women received, prosecutor Matt Smid noted that neither woman accepted probation offers that had been offered.

But Casey did.

"He pled guilty," Smid said. "He accepted accountability for what he did."

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

In a jailhouse interview with the Star-Telegram, Rosa Ortega said she has lost custody of her children and will likely be deported when her eight-year sentence is up.

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