A Tarrant County jury sentenced a Mexican citizen to eight years in prison for casting multiple illegal votes in Dallas County.
Rosa Maria Ortega falsely claimed to be a United States citizen and voted at least five times between 2004 and 2014. Records show she voted as a Republican in Dallas County in the 2012 November general election and in the May 2014 primary runoff.
Her identity came into question after she tried to register to vote twice in Tarrant County. Both applications were denied.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton assisted in the prosecution, despite the fact that Ortega voted for him.
“This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest,” he warned others in a statement.
In her defense, Ortega tried to argue that she was brought into the U.S. and abandoned by her mother. She said she believed she was a citizen.
“My mom just used us to get stamps. She never gave us love or guidance. She got deported,” she said. "All my life since I worked, I always on my knowledge thought I was a U.S. citizen because I never knew the difference of U.S. citizen and U.S. resident. And the point is if I knew, everything would've been the correct way."
Ortega’s family believes she was a political pawn and is upset about a plea deal they claim was yanked off the table.
Ortega and Oscar Sherman met eight years ago and he said they've been a couple ever since. Sherman said Ortega would never have voted if she knew it was against the law.
Sherman said, and her attorney confirmed, prosecutors offered Ortega a deal that would've dismissed the felony in exchange for her educating others by speaking to immigrant groups. She would admit she did wrong and urge immigrants to be aware of the laws about voting. Sherman said Ortega accepted the deal.
On Feb. 3, Sherman said they were notified that the deal was off the table and a trial would begin the following Monday.
Ortega's attorney told fox4 he believes Tarrant County DA Sharon Wilson rejected the plea deal for reasons involving political pressure due to President Trump's claim of widespread voter fraud.
The DA’s office did not respond to FOX4’s questions about the plea deal and the family’s comments.
In addition to her prison time, the mother of four must pay a $5,000 fine.