Conyers mayoral candidate Kathy Harvey entered a guilty plea to felony theft by conversion in Newton County Superior Court Monday, receiving a sentence of five years probation and $6,060 in restitution.
Harvey entered her plea under the first offender act, which offers leniency to those without previous a felony and criminal record and in effect removes the felony charge from their record. She had previously also faced a forgery felony charge, which was dropped.
Secretary of State spokesperson Matt Carrothers referred questions on candidate qualifications under the first offender act to the state ordinance, O.C.G.A. § 42-8-60(a), which says"Upon a verdict or plea of guilty or a plea of nolo contendere, but before an adjudication of guilt, in the case of a defendant who has not been previously convicted of a felony, the court may, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant: (1) Defer further proceeding and place the defendant on probation as provided by law; or (2) Sentence the defendant to a term of confinement as provided by law."
"Therefore, there would be no 'conviction,'" according to the SOS website.
The city of Conyers Attorney Mike Waldrop said "Today, she is no more of a convicted felon than you and I are. She is capable of running for office; she is capable of voting in the elections." He explained that the court had essentially given her a sentence that deferred her conviction and assumed that she would complete the terms of her sentence.
Rockdale Public Defender Stephen Purvis agreed and explained that if she violated the terms of her sentence, the court could hold a hearing and have her first offender status revoked. The Georgia Criminal Information Center could also administratively revoke her first offender status if she were to be arrested elsewhere - a situation that might be addressed by new legisltaion next year in the Capitol, he said.
Another candidate in the Conyers elections, Tony Adams, who is running for the District 2, Post 1, seat, also entered a guilty plea under the first offender act to a 2003 felony drug posession charge.