LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Green Party of Arkansas nominated a former Harlem Globetrotter for a state House seat this weekend — a month after a judge said he wasn't eligible to run for the Democrats.
Fred Smith said Monday that the Green Party picked him as its candidate for the House District 50 seat.
"Since I got into it and I've been cleared, what's wrong with getting a second chance?" Smith asked.
He was elected to the Arkansas House in 2010 on a Democratic ticket but resigned last year after he was found guilty of felony theft of property delivered by mistake. He filed paperwork in March to again run as a Democrat, but the party sued to keep him off the ballot because of the theft case.
A judge dismissed the theft case, but another judge ruled April 9 that Smith couldn't run because he had a criminal record when he filed.
Smith and his attorney, Sen. David Burnett, meanwhile, argued that Smith technically was not convicted in the theft case. Burnett said a judge's order last year that issued a "deferred" sentence in the case doesn't amount to a conviction.
"I just got a little small probation," Smith said Monday.
Smith was charged after an audit found that a school district issued a duplicate payment of $29,250 to a nonprofit group run by Smith. Both payments were cashed.
Smith will face Democrat Rep. Hudson Hallum, who won the seat in a special election last year after Smith's resignation in November. No Republicans are running.
Hallum didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The state Green Party says it has no qualms about Smith.
"He's perfectly qualified and I think he'll do a good job," the Green Party's state secretary Mark Jenkins said.
Jenkins said Smith approached the party about two weeks ago.
When asked about whether he approached the Green Party, Smith said, "Me being who I am, everybody wanted me to be in their party after they denied me."
He said he did some research and picked the Green Party because of their values.
"I like their values of recycling, clean water, clean air," he said. "Who doesn't want that?"
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