LITTLE ROCK A Pulaski County judge ruled Monday that a former state representative who resigned after being convicted of a felony charge cannot run again for the post in the upcoming primary election.
Former Rep. Fred Smith, D-Crawfordsville, 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 a lawsuit to have Smith removed from the ballot and Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mary McGowan heard arguments from the two sides at a hearing last week.
An attorney for Smith argued that a judge gave Smith a deferred sentence with conditions that Smith met, keeping a conviction from ever appearing on his record and allowing him to run. Attorneys for the party contended that Smith was convicted and while the charge was dismissed by the prosecutor, it happened after the filing period had ended.
McGowan ultimately agreed with the party, noting Smith filed to have his theft sentence vacated on March 8.
"As Smith did not file his petition to vacate the sentence until a week after he had filed as a candidate for elective office, the Dismissal Order entered on March 14, 2012 is too late to meet the statutory requirements of the filing deadline of noon on March 1, 2012," she wrote.
Candace Martin, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, applauded the decision.
"Obviously from the onset of this process, our no. 1 priority was making sure Arkansas law is upheld," she said. "We're pleased with the court's decision."
Smith's name will appear on the May ballots because they have already been printed, but no votes for him will be counted, according to the order.
McGowan issued the order Monday afternoon.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
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