CBS46 Bulldog confronts candidate dodging questions of campaign - CBS46 News


CBS46 Bulldog confronts candidate dodging questions of campaign eligibility

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Deanna Harris is running for a Georgia State House seat in Marietta.

She's also a convicted felon in Florida. 

On Wednesday night, in response to our reporting questioning her eligibility to run, Harris released a statement to supporters, claiming she made a "terrible" mistake when she was 19. But she didn't share the full details of her legal troubles.

So we will. 

(MORE: Candidate under fire for eligibility responds to Bulldog investigation)

Beginning in 2009, while living in Florida, Harris faced charges of driving with a suspended license. She also faced multiple counts of bank fraud and grand theft, accused of making fraudulent deposits and withdrawals.

Since then -- and she has admitted in a statement -- she violated her probation, and we learned, was re-arrested in 2012 for failure to pay restitution. 

Candidates in Georgia must sign a document that states they have never been convicted and sentenced in any court for a felony involving moral turpitude unless 10 years have passed.

She signed that document. 

The Secretary of State is now investigating if she was legally right in doing so. 

In her statement, Harris says she pleaded “no contest” to her Florida charges. She was convicted and sentenced by a Florida court. She claims she qualifies to run for state office because of a specific Georgia law regarding no contest pleas. 

We asked our station’s legal team to review her claim and here is what they told us:

There’s a difference between the state constitution and laws passed by the legislature -- the statute applies to Georgia’s judicial system. 

The Georgia Constitution controls, in felony cases like this one, and the Georgia law Ms. Harris points to doesn’t.

Also, the Georgia statute the candidate is referring to only applies to no contest pleas that are accepted by Georgia judges in Georgia courts, involving Georgia crimes. In other words, it just doesn’t apply to her plea made in a Florida court, to a Florida judge, on a Florida crime. 

Finally, in an attempt to distract from the questions raised against her in that statement to supporters, she attacked our reporting and made misleading, inaccurate and downright perplexing statements about me, claiming I called her boss in an attempt to force her to make untrue statements about this incident.

That never happened. 

With so many unanswered questions, we decided it was time Ms. Harris and I had a face-to-face conversation. I tracked her down at her office, which was open to the public. 

"Hi, Ms. Harris. Jonathan with CBS46, can we talk for a minute?" I asked.

"Sure, I'll meet you outside," she said. 

Once in the hallway, she refused to answer our questions, saying she would do an interview with someone who "wants to be fair and not attack me."

We told her she was a declared candidate for public office and we had every right to find her and question her. 

Meanwhile, the state GOP sent us a statement, standing by Ms. Harris even as it appears there are still major questions about the legality of her run. 

The Secretary of State's office tells us they are continuing to investigate. 

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