The case against Don Gresham ended Thursday morning in court when he accepted a negotiated guilty plea.
The state agreed to drop the charge of false statement in filing a notice of candidacy and to accept the recommendation of five years probation on the charge of false swearing. Gresham was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine plus surcharges and must not seek public office for the duration of his sentence.
When asked by Judge Samuel Ozburn if he understood the stipulations of his probation, Gresham said that he did and continued, "There’s no public office in my life, sir."The charges against Gresham stem from when he filed qualifying paperwork to run for a seat on the Newton County Board of Education last year. At that time, he indicated he did not have a previous felony conviction of "moral turpitude." In fact, Gresham had been convicted of felony sodomy against a child under the age of 18 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.