Gresham enters not guilty plea

COVINGTON - Horace Don Gresham pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he lied on documents he filed to run for a seat on the Newton County Board of Education.

Gresham, 72, who is charged with one count of false swearing and one count of making a false statement in connection with notice of candidacy, appeared briefly before Judge Samuel Ozburn in Newton County Superior Court with his attorney, Bryan Frost.

Gresham, who is out on $5,000 bond, was indicted by a Newton County grand jury in April and faces a possible sentence of one to five years in jail on each count if convicted.

Gresham allegedly lied in 2008 when he filed to run for the District 2 seat on the Board of Education by swearing in an affidavit that he did not have a prior conviction for a felony involving moral turpitude.

However, Gresham had been convicted of sodomy with a child under the age of 14 in DeKalb County in 1988.

Gresham's bid for office was subsequently cut short after the Citizen publicized his criminal conviction and three residents of District 2 challenged his eligibility to run for office. Georgia Election Law states that at least 10 years must have elapsed from the date of completion of a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude and qualification to run for elective office. Gresham was convicted in May 1988; his sentence included one year in prison and 11 years on probation, meaning he is not eligible to seek elective office until 2010.

Gresham withdrew from the school board race just prior to a hearing before the Newton County Board of Elections to determine his eligibility.

In response to the Gresham case, state Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, introduced a bill in the Legislature this year that would prohibit sex offenders from seeking election to local boards of education. The bill passed and awaits the governor's signature.