Gresham eligibility still up in air

COVINGTON - The eligibility of Board of Education District 2 Republican candidate Horace Don Gresham to run for office is still in question following news that he was convicted of sexual misconduct in the form of sodomy with a minor in 1988.

The Newton County Republican Party is seeking advice from the state party regarding the situation, party member Charles Strickland said.

"We're not taking any action. We're waiting on the state. ... We're sort of at a standstill," he said.

Strickland said that, for now, Gresham remains on the list of candidates, signifying that "he has qualified, not that he is qualified.

"The easiest thing would be for him to withdraw," Strickland said, adding that the party is attempting to contact Gresham in pursuit of a withdrawal.

Board of Elections Director Donna Morrison said her office must receive a challenge to Gresham's candidacy in writing, which would be followed by a hearing to determine his eligibility.

Morrison said she has yet to receive a challenge.

On April 28, Gresham signed a declaration of candidacy and an affidavit swearing he is qualified to run for office and that he has never been convicted and sentenced for a felony involving moral turpitude or that at least 10 years have elapsed from the date of completion of a sentence for such a crime without a subsequent conviction, according to records on file with the Newton County Board of Elections Office. All candidates are required to sign the form to qualify for office.

Gresham was convicted of sodomy involving a boy under 14 years of age in 1988, according to DeKalb County records.

Gresham received a sentence of 12 years, with one year to be served 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.

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 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."

According to the court documents, Gresham was convicted in May 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.

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."

News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.