Jenkins was one of ten people who, along with Heath, registered to vote at a hotel for the May 2010 Woodland Road Utility District No. 1 board election. He was indicted in March 2012.
But while Jenkins ultimately was ultimately found a free man, Heath, now a felon, served prison time.
The 14th appeals court ruled that Judge John Stevens failed to instruct the jury that Jenkins had consulted with the state of Texas, and reviewed the laws regarding voter residency before carrying out his plan. The judge also did not inform jurors that Jenkins acted in full faith that his actions were legal, the panel said.
Jenkins’ defense was based on a “mistake of law” in which he believed he was engaging in legal behavior by voting in the district election.
In his original 2013 trial, Jenkins was found him guilty of illegal voting and was sentenced him to three years in prison.
Jenkins, a small business owner, said the case has cost him thousands in legal fees, prevented him from traveling on family trips and cost him business.
“I’ve had to report in to adult supervision for over four years and had to pay a fee every time.” Jenkins said.
He also believes the state will again try to prosecute him on the same charges.
“I’m sure they’re plotting that right now; it’s not over,” he said. “I’d bet they are going to try me again. There’s too much money at stake. They want to discourage this kind of behavior to be part of these districts.”
The other two voters prosecuted by the state, Sybil Doyle and her daughter Roberta Cook, were convicted and sentenced to five years’ probation. Doyle passed away in December.
The state has sent seven people to prison for voting offenses since 2005. Of those, Heath and former Port Lavaca city councilwoman Debra Briseno, had no other crimes or serious prior convictions. Briseno was convicted of registering non-citizens to vote.
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].