Arkansas Supreme Court invalidates election victory over misdemeanor conviction
26.11.2020 | Becca Salamacha | U. Pittsburgh School of Law, US NOVEMBER 25, 2020 02:45:02 PM | 109
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday invalidated the state legislature election victory of Democrat Jimmie Wilson over a previous federal misdemeanor conviction. The invalidation deemed Republican David Tollett the default victor of the November 3 Arkansas State House District 12 election.
The court invalidated Wilson’s victory despite then-president Bill Clinton pardoning Wilson for in 2001. In its reasoning, the court cited that the Arkansas constitution prohibited Wilson from taking a seat in the legislature because Wilson’s crime was “infamous.” Additionally, the court held that a presidential pardon does not negate the “infamous crime” for public office requirement purposes because the pardon nullified but did not erase the conviction:
First, we agree that the federal crimes for which Wilson was convicted under 18 United States Code sections 641 and 658 fall within the definition of “infamous crime” in article 5, section 9. The judgment in Wilson’s federal criminal case was entered into evidence at the hearing. It shows that he pleaded guilty to two counts of violating section 641 by “converting public money, property[,] or records to personal use” and three counts of violating section 658 by “converting property mortgaged or pledged to farm credit agencies.” By pleading guilty, Wilson admitted to his conduct under these federal statutes. Furthermore, both crimes required the culpable mental state of “knowing.” … We held in Wilson v. Neal … that although all five counts to which Wilson pleaded guilty were misdemeanors, “these convictions involved dishonesty and a breach of trust.” We likewise have no hesitation holding that the crimes involved “acts of deceit, fraud, or false statement” within article 5, section 9’s definition of “infamous crime.” We therefore affirm the court’s finding that Wilson was convicted of crimes that disqualify him from sitting as a representative pursuant to article 5, section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution. Second, we agree with the circuit court that Wilson remains disqualified under article 5, section 9 despite his presidential pardon. Appellees cite State v. Irby … in which this court held that disqualification from holding public office under article 5, section 9 cannot be removed by a presidential pardon.
In 1990, Wilson was convicted of “converting public money, property[,] or records to personal use” and “converting property mortgaged or pledged to farm credit agencies.”
Wilson won the November 3 election with 51.7 percent of the vote while Tollett trailed with 48.3 percent. Neither Wilson nor the Democratic Party has indicated if they will appeal to the US Supreme Court.