LITTLE ROCK A judge on Thursday heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party of Arkansas seeking to keep former Rep. Fred Smith, D-Crawfordsville, from running for the post in the upcoming primary election.
After a hearing that lasted nearly an hour, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mary McGowan said she would review the arguments and issue a written decision. She did not say when it would come.
Smith resigned from the House in January 2011 after being found guilty of felony theft of property delivered by mistake. But in the closing minutes of the filing period on March 1, Smith refiled for the position, not directly answering questions about whether his criminal record had been expunged.
Party officials filed the lawsuit after the Secretary of State's office declined to remove Smith's name from the ballot. The suit names as defendants Smith, Secretary of State Mark Martin and the election commissioners in Crittenden and Cross counties.
After the filing, a judge dismissed Smith's charge after Smith completed conditions of a deferred sentence, including restitution of nearly $30,000. The prosecutor has sought to appeal that order.
Smith's lawyer, Rep. David Burnett, D-Osceola, argued Smith's deferred sentence was not a conviction at all and that his record was wiped clean when he met the conditions.
"He was not sentenced," Burnett said. "He was not a convicted felon. He is not a convicted felon to this day. Never has been."
Benton Smith, an attorney representing the Democratic party, said Smith was convicted and the charge wasn't dismissed until after the filing period. He said regardless of Fred Smith's status now, his eligibility must reflect the "snapshot" of his record taken when he filed on March 1.
"At the time of filing is what we're dealing with," Benton Smith said.