Gresham pleads guilty, gets probation
72-year-old sentenced for false statements made in election document

COVINGTON - Horace Don Gresham pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of false swearing when he filed documents with the Newton County Board of Elections to run for a seat on the Newton County Board of Education in July 2008.

He was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000.

Gresham, 72, was out of jail on a $5,000 bond following his indictment by a Newton County grand jury in April of this year on one count of false swearing and one count of making a false statement in connection with notice of candidacy.

"Since both charges were based on the same false statement, he could only be sentenced for one of them," District Attorney Ken Wynne said. "When he entered his guilty plea to the false swearing charge, we were duty-bound to dismiss the alternative charge based on double jeopardy."

Gresham signed a declaration of candidacy affidavit, swearing that he had "never been convicted and sentenced in any court of competent jurisdiction for ... (a) felony involving moral turpitude ..."

Gresham had been convicted of sodomy with a child under the age of 14 in DeKalb County in 1998. 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 1998; his sentence included one year in prison and 11 years on probation, meaning he would not be eligible to seek elective office until 2010.

Three residents of Board of Education District 2 challenged Gresham's eligibility to run for office after the Citizen published an article revealing that Gresham had been convicted and imprisoned on the sodomy charges.

He withdrew from the race just prior to a hearing before the Newton County Board of Elections, but vowed he would run for the District 2 Board of Commissioners seat in 2010.

"He will not be eligible to seek office upon the expiration of his sentence," Wynne said. "It is our hope that this puts an end to Mr. Gresham's political aspirations. Should he think otherwise, probation will not be an option in the future."

Gresham's ill-fated bid for a seat on the Newton County Board of Education inspired state Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, to introduce a bill to the state Legislature this year that would prohibit convicted sex offenders from running for election to local boards of education. The bill became law Wednesday.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.