A Memphis Black Lives Matter activist wants Tennessee and current and former local district attorneys to pay for prosecuting her for trying to vote after state officials told the woman that her right was restored.
Pamela Moses fought felony election fraud charges for five months, including spending 82 days behind bars. Moses was found guilty of making or consenting to false entries on official registration or election documents in November. She was sentenced to six years in prison in January.
Former Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich accused Moses, who had been previously convicted of felony crimes, of misleading election and probation employees into letting her register to vote.
A Tennessee Department of Corrections probation officer gave Moses a document confirming that she was no longer on probation, which the election office accepted as certification of her right to register to vote.
However, it was later revealed that state officials were aware that a probation officer made an error in signing off on the document that moved Moses’ voter registration application forward.
The Guardian posted emails revealing that the probation office sent an email to election officials acknowledging the mistake. Corrections officials launched an investigation into the employee’s actions and found that he “failed to adequately investigate the status of this case.”
Moses was still on probation. Furthermore, she is permanently banned from registering to vote or voting in the state because of a previous tampering with evidence conviction.
Moses’ defense lawyers were unaware of the emails and accused the district attorney of withholding the evidence. The same judge who sentenced Moses and accused her of “believing” she “was above the law” ordered the activist released and retried in February.
Weirich dropped the charges in April. The Republican prosecutor lost her reelection bid to Democrat Steve Mulroy in August. Mulroy, who was sworn in as Weirich’s successor on Aug. 31, is also named in the suit obtained by Atlanta Black Star.
Moses’ federal lawsuit filed on Oct. 21 alleges she was falsely arrested because of a “reckless and malicious” prosecution. The BLM Memphis founder accuses the state and district attorneys of violating her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The 44-year-old woman said she lost work and suffered severe emotional distress, anxiety, mental anguish, embarrassment and harassment because of the state’s failure to properly hire and train its employees not to “recklessly and maliciously prosecute individuals.”
Former President Donald Trump’s allegations of widespread voter turnout created new momentum by states and local governments to closely scrutinize election laws. Moses’ case is one of many that civil rights and criminal justice reform groups say exemplify the unbalanced justice scale for Black Americans, now driven by the new goal of cracking down on election fraud.
Trump ally Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ election crimes and security task force has sparked criticism for arresting nearly two dozen people, mainly African-Americans, in August for registering to vote with past criminal convictions. Many of them argued that they were encouraged to vote by advocates who ensured them they were eligible.
The Memphis woman’s case was filed the same day a Texas district court judge dropped voter fraud charges against Hervis Taylor.
Taylor, 62, waited in line in Houston for six hours to vote in March 2020, gaining the attention of the national media. But he was on parole for a 1995 felony and ineligible to vote under state law.
The Texas ACLU argued that Taylor, like Moses, should not have been arrested in the first place. Taylor said he did not know he was ineligible, and state law calls for prosecuting those who “knowingly” commit election fraud.
The ACLU also found that 70 percent of voter fraud cases pursued by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton were against Black and Latino people.
Taylor was arrested in July 2021 and was released later after activists paid his $200,000 bond. His attorney’s approved dismissal motion requested the charges be dropped on account of a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling that bars Paxton from unilaterally prosecuting election crimes. Taylor was facing up to 20 years in prison if he was convicted of the voter fraud charge.
“It was a very traumatic experience,” Taylor’s attorney, Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube, told Atlanta Black Star.
“When we went into this, Hervis was working two jobs and really, doing all he could to be a positive and productive part of society. And this really was just so devastating. So, we are all very relieved to put this behind him. He’s a very good man, and it is an enormous weight off of his shoulders and ours to have this case come to a close.”
On Tuesday, Harris County election officials sent a letter to the Texas Secretary of State Office requesting federal election monitors to oversee the election in South Houston and surrounding cities.
The Republican National Committee and its allies have touted training sessions around the nation aimed at election monitoring and filing complaints ahead of the November general elections.