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Ex-Convict Candidate Ineligible Despite Pardon

(CN) - A candidate for city council can't run for office despite his pardon from a felony conviction, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled.

Francis Touchet Jr. challenged the candidacy of Ernal Broussard for Abbeville City Council.

He claimed that Broussard is not eligible for office because Broussard is a convicted felon who was not pardoned by the governor or president and has not been out of prison for at least 15 years.

Broussard pleaded guilty in 2005 to a felony charge of aiding and abetting an illegal gambling business. At the end of his sentence, he had an "automatic" pardon because he was convicted of a non-violent crime.

The trial court ruled that Broussard was disqualified because it was less than 15 years since his sentence ran out and because his pardon did not come from the president or governor.

The court of appeals reversed the decision, ruling that the facts in the record did not support the conviction.

But at the state Supreme Court level, Justice Jeffrey Victory ruled that Broussard was ineligible to run for office for the reasons articulated by the trial court.

"An automatic first offender pardon is different than a full gubernatorial or presidential pardon in that it does not restore the status of innocence and does not preclude consideration of a first felony conviction in prohibiting a person from running for public office until the expiration of 15 years from the completion of his sentence," Victory ruled.

In addition, Victory wrote that the court of appeals was incorrect in its reason for reversing the lower court's decision.

"The court of appeals' ruling ignores a basic principal of Louisiana statutory criminal law that all persons who aid and abet in the commission of a crime are principals," he wrote.

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