Christine Ferretti, Mike Martindale and Robert Snell, Detroit News, August 2, 2017
Half of the eight mayoral hopefuls on Detroit’s primary ballot next week have been convicted of felony crimes involving drugs, assault or weapons, a Detroit News analysis shows.
Three were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the offenses date back decades, the earliest to 1977. The most recent was in 2008.
Political consultant Greg Bowens said there are candidates with past hardships in every election cycle. It’s not something unique to Detroit or the political arena in general, he said.
“Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges,” said Bowens, a former press secretary to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and NAACP activist. “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.”
Tuesday’s Detroit mayoral primary election is the first since the city exited bankruptcy in 2014. The field of eight will be narrowed to two who will face off in the fall.
Under state election law, convicted felons can vote and run for office as long as they are not incarcerated or guilty of certain fraud-related offenses, or crimes involving a breach of the public trust. The Detroit News reviewed the backgrounds of all the mayoral contenders.
While some refute circumstances that led to their criminal convictions, three said their past is a motivating factor in their decisions to run.
The two who have polled ahead of the field, incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan and state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, the son of the city’s first black mayor, have no criminal records. Nor do candidates Edward Dean and Angelo Brown.
First-time contender Donna Marie Pitts, 58, has multiple felony convictions dating back to 1977.
In 1977, Pitts was convicted of receiving and concealing a stolen 1977 Oldsmobile. She was sentenced to a year of probation.
A decade later, she was charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder and two firearm offenses in connection with two separate shooting incidents on March 24, 1987, Detroit Recorder’s Court records say.
In September 1987, a jury convicted Pitts of the lesser offense of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, less than murder, in the shooting involving the shop owner as well as a firearm offense. Jurors acquitted Pitts of charges connected to the incident involving the officer.
Pitts was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, plus two additional years for the firearm offense. She served about four years and eight months and was paroled June 1, 1992, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Pitts had another run-in with police in Troy in September 2000 when she was stopped in a residential neighborhood and arrested for fleeing and eluding and operating a vehicle without a license.
Pitts later pleaded guilty to not having an operator’s license and disobeying a police signal. She was placed on six months probation, which was discharged in September 2001.
Most recently, Pitts was convicted of firearm possession and carrying a concealed weapon under a March 2003 plea agreement stemming from a traffic stop in Dearborn Heights, Wayne County Circuit Court records show.
Pitts was stopped by police on Dec. 2, 2002, on Ford near Norborne for an improper plate and failure to wear a seat belt.
A .38 caliber handgun — which Pitts said belonged to her sister — was found on the front floor board of the truck. She was ordered to serve 40 to 60 months in prison in April 2003. She was paroled in August 2006, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Fellow candidate Danetta L. Simpson has a 1996 felony conviction out of Oakland County for assault with intent to murder.
Another candidate, Articia Bomer, a document specialist who touts a culinary background and musical talents, was charged in 2008 with carrying a concealed weapon.
Candidate Curtis Christopher Greene was charged with a felony at age 19.
Greene was charged in 2004 with fourth-degree fleeing and eluding police during an attempted traffic stop in Harrison Township as well as delivering and manufacturing marijuana.
He was sentenced to 18 months’ probation under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, meaning his conviction would be dismissed if he met all probationary requirements. Under the agreement, the fleeing and eluding charge was dropped, Macomb County Circuit Court records show.
Greene violated probation in July 2005 when he was arrested and charged with uttering and publishing a fraudulent check in Gratiot County, a felony.
The case was not prosecuted. Instead, Greene pleaded guilty that September to conspiracy for uttering and publishing and was sentenced to six months in the Gratiot County Jail.
Greene also pleaded guilty to violating his Macomb Circuit Court probation. The violation triggered an extension of his probation term and his youthful trainee status revoked, court records say. He was discharged in September 2007.