Illegal vot­ing con­vic­tion of mother of 4 up­held

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY ANNA M. TINSLEY AND DEANNA BOYD atins­[email protected]­ [email protected]­

A Grand Prairie mother of four who drew na­tional attention af­ter a Tar­rant County jury sen­tenced her to eight years in prison for illegal vot­ing has lost her ap­peal.

The 2nd Court of Ap­peals this month up­held the orig­i­nal con­vic­tion and sen­tence of Rosa Maria Ortega.

“This case un­der­scores the im­por­tance that Tex­ans place on the in­sti­tu­tion of vot­ing, and the hal­lowed prin­ci­ple that ev­ery cit­i­zen’s vote must count,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton said in a writ­ten statement. “We will hold those ac­count­able who falsely claim el­i­gi­bil­ity and pur­posely sub­vert the elec­tion process in Texas.”

Ortega, who was re­leased from jail on an ap­peal bond a month af­ter her 2017 con­vic­tion, could not be reached for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

Calls to her ap­peals at­tor­ney, David An­drew Pear­son; brother, Tony Ortega; and ex-fi­ance, Os­car Sher­man, were not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

And the at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented her dur­ing the trial said he has lost touch with her.

“It has been two years,” said Clark Bird­sall. “I don’t know



Rosa Maria Ortega told the Star-Tele­gram from jail in 2017.

where she is or what hap­pened to her.”

Ortega, 39, could still file a pe­ti­tion for dis­cre­tionary re­view with the Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals. It is not known whether she’ll be al­lowed to re­main free on an ap­peal bond should she seek the re­view.

Voter fraud has been a long­time con­cern for Texas law­mak­ers, who have said that was part of the rea­son they passed a law re­quir­ing vot­ers to show a photo ID when vot­ing.

There have been sev­eral cases of voter fraud re­cently filed by the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice in Tar­rant County. Among them, an al­leged “voter fraud ring” in Fort Worth that led to the in­dict­ment of four women: Leti­cia Sanchez, Leti­cia Sanchez Tepichin, Maria So­lis and Laura Parra.


Ortega, who has a green card and isn’t a U.S. cit­i­zen, was con­victed on two counts of illegal vot­ing and sen­tenced to prison in Fe­bru­ary 2017. She was re­leased on an ap­peal bond the next month.

Il­le­gally vot­ing is a sec­ond-de­gree felony, pun­ish­able by two to 20 years in prison. But Pax­ton’s of­fice noted that she could be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role in less than a year.

Of­fi­cials have said she likely faces de­por­ta­tion af­ter serv­ing her sen­tence.

“Pros­e­cu­tors showed the jury proof that Ortega il­le­gally reg­is­tered to vote in 2002 and voted in four elec­tions in Dal­las County,” a statement from Pax­ton’s of­fice stated. “The pros­e­cu­tors es­tab­lished that when Ortega moved from Dal­las County to Tar­rant County in 2014, and cor­rectly in­di­cated she was not a U.S. cit­i­zen on her vot­ing reg­is­tra­tion form, the county in­formed her in writ­ing that she was in­el­i­gi­ble to vote.

“Nev­er­the­less, Ortega ap­plied to vote again, this time falsely in­sist­ing she was a U.S. cit­i­zen. She il­le­gally voted five times be­tween 2004 and 2014.”

That in­cluded the 2014 Repub­li­can pri­mary runoff.

Dur­ing the trial, Ortega — a le­gal res­i­dent of Mexico — tes­ti­fied that she be­lieved she had the right to vote.

She told the Star-Tele­gram af­ter her trial that she be­lieved she was wrongly used as an ex­am­ple of voter fraud.

“I thought I was do­ing some­thing right for my coun­try,” she told the Star-Tele­gram from jail in 2017. “When they gave me the sen­tence, they just broke my heart, and they didn’t just break my heart, but I al­ready knew my fam­ily was go­ing to be bro­ken, my kids es­pe­cially.

“To me, it’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t be­lieve this. I just can’t.’ ”


Doc­u­ments show that Ortega was brought to the United States as a baby and re­ceived a green card when she was a child, which does not mean she’s a United States cit­i­zen.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan af­ter the state re­ceived re­ports that she had voted il­le­gally.

Court records show that there have been some let­ters writ­ten to state Dis­trict Judge Robb Cata­lano, who over­saw the orig­i­nal trial, by the gen­eral pub­lic on Ortega’s be­half.

Isa­iah Mar­ron of Washington wrote not­ing that it is im­por­tant to “pre­serve in­tegrity in Amer­i­can vot­ing sys­tems.”

“How­ever, re­gard­ing the case of Rosa Ortega, there is no good rea­son for an 8 year sen­tence,” Mar­ron’s let­ter stated. “Surely the mercy of God calls us to a far more rea­son­able, fit­ting re­sponse.”

Si­mon Han of Car­roll­ton also weighed in on the rul­ing.

“It is clear to me that the pun­ish­ment does not fit the crime,” Han wrote. “I urge you to let com­mon sense and com­pas­sion speak louder than po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing.

“A mother’s life and her chil­dren’s lives are at stake. For these rea­sons, I ask that you con­vert her prison sen­tence to pro­ba­tion through ‘shock pro­ba­tion.’ ”

BRAN­DON WADE Star-Tele­gram ar­chives

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