by Max Brantley
AP is reporting that Chicot Circuit Judge Sam Pope has ruled that former state Rep. Fred Smith successfully completed a probationary sentence on a felony theft conviction a year ago and the charge against him has been dismissed. Smith resigned from the legislature representing parts of Cross and Crittenden counties after the conviction.
Does that mean Smith's record is sufficiently clear to be a candidate for state legislature this year? He filed at the deadline while claiming he was in the process of expunging his record, but didn't provide the required certification of a clear record at filing time. The Democratic Party has sued to have him removed from the primary ballot, for which incumbent Rep. Hudson Hallum has also filed.
I have a call in to the party regarding how it views the status of its ballot challenge now.
UPDATE: Said Party spokesperson Candace Martin: "We are reviewing this legally and have no position at this time." Smith thinks he's eligible, of course. The local prosecutor may yet have a say in Smith's status if he chooses to contest the judge's dismissal order. He's already said Smith wasn't eligible for first-offender treatment because he contested his guilt.