Half of the eight candidates who will appear on the primary ballot for Detroit's mayoral race are felons, according to a report by the Detroit News.
The News reported that three were charged with gun crimes, and two for assault with intent to commit murder. The earliest was reportedly committed in 1977, and the latest crime in 2008.
Greg Bowens, an NAACP actives and onetime press secretary for Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, told the News that having felonies on your record isn't new — nor is it isolated to Detroit.
“Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges,” Bowens said. “They (candidates) deserve the opportunity to be heard, but they also deserve to have the kind of scrutiny that comes along with trying to get an important elected position.”
According to the News, Michigan state election law allows convicted felons to vote and to seek public office "as they are not incarcerated or guilty of certain fraud-related offenses, or crimes involving a breach of the public trust."
The candidates with prior felony convictions include Donna Marie Pitts, 58, who has multiple felony convictions, according to court records obtained by the News. The convictions include two counts of assault with intent to murder and two firearm offenses in connection with two separate shooting incidents on March 24, 1987. Pitts served four years and eight months in prison and was paroled June 1, 1992.
Pitts was later convicted of illegal possession of a firearm found during a traffic stop in 2002. The News reported that she was paroled in August 2006.
She reportedly denied any wrongdoing but was open about her convictions.
“I don’t hide it. God has brought me out," she said. "I hope (voters) don’t look at it as negative but as my experience, and I can help. I want to fight for them.”
Pitts told the News that she wants a “better way of life” for Detroit residents and plans to focus on tackling crime and rebuilding the community. She also said her troubles with the law were the result of "discrimination" and added that she would use her mayoral powers to combat racism.
Another candidate with a felony record is Danetta L. Simpson, who was convicted in 1996 for assault with intent to murder. According to the News, Simpson made threatening phone calls to the woman who was married to the father of her two children. At one point, Simpson pulled up in a van and screamed for the woman to come outside. When she did, Simpson reportedly fired a gun at her, striking the doorway two feet away.
She pleaded no contest during her 1998 trial. She was put on put on probation for one year and discharged Sept. 30, 1999.
“I was a wrongfully convicted felon, overcharged for a crime I did not commit,” said Simpson, who denied the charge.
Simpson stated she's running now to make things right.
“I’m not out here just to run for name recognition," she said. "I’m someone different. I’m someone new. I want to help lift the city independently for the people.”
Articia Bomer, 45, a document specialist, was charged in 2008 with carrying a concealed weapon. She was convicted during a bench trial in January 2009 and sentenced to a year of probation, records say.
Candidate Curtis Christopher Greene, 32, was charged in 2004 with fourth-degree fleeing and eluding police during an attempted traffic stop as well as delivering and manufacturing marijuana. He was sentenced to 18 months’ probation but violated his probation in July 2005 when he was arrested and charged with uttering and publishing a fraudulent check in Gratiot County, a felony.
According to the News, polls indicate that the two candidates with no prior criminal convictions — incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan and state Sen. Coleman A. Young II — are currently leading the pack.