Gresham says he won't withdraw

COVINGTON - Board of Education candidate Horace Don Gresham said Tuesday he won't withdraw from the District 2 race despite the urging of the Republican Party.

Gresham was convicted in DeKalb County in 1988 of sodomy involving a boy under 14 years of age, the Citizen reported Saturday.

Republican Party Chairman Steve Bray said he had contacted Gresham in hopes that he would withdraw, but Gresham said he has no plans to pull out of the race.

Gresham 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, according to DeKalb County records. 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.

State election law requires that a period of 10 years have elapsed between completion of the sentence for a conviction of a felony involving "moral turpitude" and qualification to seek elective office.

According to 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.

Gresham said Tuesday that the probation portion of his sentence was suspended after two years, but the Citizen has not found any documentation verifying that.

"The rules say you've got to be a good boy for 10 years after you are off of probation," he said. "I have not been under court supervision in over 15 years. When I get to a point in this, I will present to the people of the county the evidence I've got that got me removed from probation."

Gresham declined to go into more detail.

"If I was a child molester in a neighborhood where I was having fun, why would I move away from it?" Gresham said, adding that he moved from DeKalb County to Newton County prior to his conviction.

Gresham said he would take a lie detector test to prove his innocence, if someone would pay for it.

"If I was a child molester, I would be after children again," he said.

The incident in DeKalb County was not Gresham's last brush with the law.

In 1999, he was charged with public indecency in Newton County. Gresham admitted his guilt and voluntarily completed a pretrial diversion program in lieu of prosecution, according to court documents.

The charge stemmed from a complaint by Gresham's neighbor on Creekside Lane, who said Gresham would appear in his T-shirt and underwear when she and her daughter would walk in the early morning hours.

On July 23, 1999, a neighbor took a picture when Gresham took off his T-shirt as the women approached.

Gresham signed a joint motion for pretrial diversion admitting his guilt. In addition to completing the diversion program, he was required to submit to a mental health evaluation and treatment, if needed, and to refrain from appearing in public in pants shorter than three inches above his knee.

The case was dead docketed in 2000 after Gresham completed the diversion program and formally dismissed in July 2004.

Gresham continues to remain a certified candidate in the Board of Education race, Bray said.

"The local Republican Party does not determine qualification for office. We simply receive and record the affidavit that he provides," Bray said. "The candidate bears full responsibility for familiarity of and compliance with the statutes."

Bray added that only candidates for sheriff must submit a criminal background check when qualifying.

Gresham's eligibility can be challenged by any registered voter or by the Board of Elections, Bray said.

A Board of Elections staff member said no written challenge had been submitted by a citizen as of Tuesday afternoon. Board of Elections Director Donna Morrison could not be reached for comment on whether the board plans to file a challenge.

News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this story.

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