COVINGTON - Newton County resident and candidate for a seat on the Board of Education Horace Don Gresham was convicted of sexual misconduct involving a boy under 14 years of age in 1988, according to DeKalb County records. The conviction calls into question Gresham's eligibility to seek public office under Georgia elections law.
Gresham, who is seeking the District 2 seat on the school board, received a sentence of 12 years, with one year to serve in prison, on one count of sodomy after he pleaded guilty in a negotiated plea deal that combined four counts involving the same child, the records show. The conviction stems from an indictment handed down by a DeKalb County grand jury, which included two counts of sodomy and two counts of aggravated child molestation that allegedly occurred between January 1982 and Oct. 31, 1985.
When contacted Friday afternoon, Gresham said, "All I know, the law has been overturned," referring to the 1998 Georgia Supreme Court decision overturning the sodomy law as it applies to consenting adults. Gresham did not comment on the fact that any sexual contact with a child under 14 years of age is a crime.
Gresham said he pleaded guilty only because "they couldn't prove anything and they kept hounding and hounding me." He added that his lawyer advised him that once he was charged in Georgia, he might as well go ahead and plead guilty. Gresham was represented by Mike Maloof at the time of his guilty plea.
In discussing the publication of the story, Gresham offered to withdraw from the school board race if the Citizen would agree to withhold the story on his conviction.
Gresham was sentenced on the felony May 18, 1988. He was ordered to report to the DeKalb County Jail on May 20, but actually arrived at Rivers State Prison in Hardwick on Aug. 31, 1988. He was released on May 14, 1989.
Eleven years of his sentence were to be served on probation. DeKalb court documents show the judge ordered him to pay more than $6,000 in restitution, which included the cost of treatment for his victim. He was also ordered to " ... continue with treatment for psychological maladjustment and his propensity for molestation of children ... (he) cannot be alone in the company of any minor children not related to him."
The 1988 conviction raises the issue of Gresham's eligibility to run for elective office. State election law requires that a period of 10 years must have elapsed between completion of the sentence for a conviction of a felony involving "moral turpitude" and qualification to seek elective office.
According to the court documents, Gresham was convicted in May of 1988; his sentence, including one year in prison and 11 years on probation, would have ended in 2000, meaning he would not be eligible to seek office until 2010.
Gresham qualified to run for school board on Tuesday and is running on the Republican ticket. If eligible, he will face incumbent Rickie Corley in the July 15 primary.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at email@example.com.