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Felon elected to office is ordered to repay compensation

May 1, 2019

LEXINGTON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi elected official has been ordered to repay his salary with interest because state law says felons can’t hold elected office.

Holmes County Supervisor Eddie J. Carthan was ordered to repay more than $184,000 this month, the Clarion Ledger reported .

In 1977, Carthan became the first black mayor since Reconstruction of the small Delta town of Tchula. Around that time, he and several others were convicted of assaulting a white police officer. He said he was framed on a bogus charge. He later served prison time on federal charges of making false statements to get bank loans.

State Auditor Shad White said an investigation determined Carthan lied about the convictions when he applied to run for office in 2015. But Carthan submitted a form this year that didn’t specify he wasn’t a felon.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment, but pointed to the state law.

Carthan told the newspaper on Monday that he was “surprised and shocked” when he received the demand letter.

“I didn’t certify myself and I have ran five times for office,” Carthan said.

Carthan was one of seven people convicted of assaulting a white police officer. The officer said Carthan struck him. The officer later vaguely alluded in a television interview that the mayor had been set up, according to published reports. The judge suspended all but Carthan’s three-year sentence. After several months, then-Gov. William Winter suspended Carthan’s remaining time.

In 1981, Carthan was charged with capital murder for allegedly hiring two gunmen to kill a Tchula alderman, who was a political rival. A jury in the predominantly black town acquitted Carthan in 1982.

Also that year, he was convicted of federal charges of making false statements to obtain bank loans and was sent to prison, serving eight months and 21 days in prison. The federal conviction didn’t disqualify Carthan from holding a state office.

Carthan’s legal troubles attracted national attention, including the support of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and protest rallies in his support led by the National Campaign to Free Mayor Eddie James Carthan and the Tchula 7, an umbrella organization of support groups that included the United League of Holmes County.

Supporters also held rallies and sit-ins when Carthan was transferred in 1983 from Holmes County to the state penitentiary at Parchman while serving time on the assault charges.

The Mississippi Constitution disqualifies candidates who have been convicted of a felony in a state court. The disqualification also applies to felony convictions in other states or federal court after 1992.

For Carthan’s part, he said he has no plans to voluntarily step down from office.

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Information from: The Clarion Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com