Pamela Moses spent 82 days in custody after a Tennessee judge handed down a six-year prison sentence against the 44-year-old Black woman for trying to register to vote.
On April 22, prosecutors declared that they’d gotten their pound of flesh.
Charges were dropped against Moses after another judge granted her a new trial.
“Our original offer to the defendant Pamela Moses was a guilty plea to a misdemeanor and no time to serve,” Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich declared.
“She rejected that offer and asked for a jury trial. At the conclusion of the week-long trial, the jury convicted her on the felony charge of false entry on permanent voter registration.”
“She was taken into custody and spent 75 days in jail before Judge Mark Ward granted her motion for a new trial. In total, she has spent 82 days in custody in this case, which is sufficient. She is also permanently barred from registering to vote or voting in Tennessee as a result of her 2015 conviction for Tampering with Evidence. In the interest of judicial economy, we are dismissing her illegal registration case and her violation of probation.”
The vital issue had always centered on whether Moses knew she lost her voting eligibility.
A probation officer filled out and signed a form indicating the end of her supervision stemming from a 2015 felony conviction.
The officer admitted the mistake but left Moses wondering whether she could vote.
Prosecutors alleged that she deceived the officer and knew of her ineligible status.
However, following her conviction, The Guardian newspaper uncovered evidence through public records that undercut Weirich’s false claim that Moses duped the probation officer.
“In September 2019, just two days after a probation officer mistakenly signed a certificate telling Moses her probation was complete, officials at the Tennessee department of corrections investigated how exactly their employee made the error,” The British daily newspaper reported.
“Their investigation didn’t find that Moses had deceived a probation officer, but rather that the officer had made a good-faith mistake.
“The review found that the probation officer – referred to as Manager Billington – spent about an hour investigating whether Moses was still on probation. Billington came across a note in Moses’ file noting that in 2016, she had been placed on supervised probation for two years. Even though the system said that Moses remained on unsupervised probation, Billington thought this was a mistake. The person who handled the file, he believed, forgot to close out the case when the supervised probation ran out. That’s why he ultimately signed Moses’ voting certificate saying her probation had expired in 2018 and she was eligible to vote.”
Joe Williams, an administrator in the department of corrections, wrote a letter to a top department official stating that Billington failed to investigate the status of the case adequately.
“He failed to review all of the official documents available through the Shelby county justice portal and negligently relied on a contact note from a court specialist in 2016,” Williams stated, according to The Guardian.
Williams noted that if Billington had looked more thoroughly, he would have found additional documents issued in 2019 that said Moses was on probation.
Williams conceded that it was “tedious” to find some of that information.
“The information that Manager Billington had at the time he signed the Voters Restoration was insufficient to reasonably affirm that an offender was off supervision.”
Meanwhile, Moses waited in the lobby of the probation office and “seemed impatient while Billington investigated. However, it does not suggest that Moses bore responsibility for the mistake,” The Guardian reported.
“This really runs contrary to the prosecution’s characterization of the incident as Ms. Moses tricking the probation officer,” Blair Bowie, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center.
Moses has declined to speak with reporters but has maintained she believed she had a right to try and register to vote.