Don Gresham, who is charged with one felony count of false swearing and one felony count of false statement in filing a notice of candidacy, pled not guilty during an arraignment in front of Superior Judge Samuel Ozburn this morning.
The charges against Gresham stem from when filed qualifying paperwork to run for a seat on the Newton County Board of Educationlast year when he indicated he did not have a previous felony conviction of "moral turpitude." In fact, Gresham had been convicted of felony sodomy in DeKalb County in 1988 and served just under 10 months of a one-year sentence at Rivers State Prison before being released on May 14, 1989. In addition to one year in prison, Gresham was also ordered to serve 11 years on probation, making him ineligible to seek office until 2010.
Gresham chose to continue to seek office even after his past convictions came to light. He withdrew his candidacy by letter moments before a special hearing in from of the Board of Elections to decide his eligibility.
"That is what this test that I have run, to see what the voter's [sic] of my district think," stated Gresham. "I believe over 99.9 percent of them believe in forgiveness, therefore I will run for the District 2 Board of Commissioner's seat when it comes up for a vote in two years."
State Senator John Douglas (R-Social Circle), addressed the possibility that Gresham could run for the seat again in 2010 by introducing a bill in the state Legislature earlier this year that prohibits sex offenders from running for election to local boards of education. Thus far the bill has passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting the governor's signature.