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Hearing held over challenge to Port Wentworth mayoral candidate’s qualification

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 10:57 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (WTOC) - A candidate for mayor in Port Wentworth had a chance to explain why he is eligible to run for public office after a citizen filed a formal objection.

The objection against Julius Hall is about how much time has passed since he served a 22-year federal prison sentence for running a crack cocaine drug trafficking ring.

Hall defended his candidacy Tuesday during a press conference, and had a chance to present his side Friday during an evidentiary hearing at Port Wentworth City Hall.

At the center of Friday’s hearing, presided by Port Wentworth’s Superintendent of Elections, was a challenge to Hall’s qualification to even run for elected office by a Port Wentworth citizen, Jodi Hawks.

One issue in question is if enough time has passed since Hall finished serving a 22-year federal prison sentence. The second issue is what effect does the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles restoration of rights order have on the ten year after end of sentence requirement.

Hall acknowledged the time he served after being convicted in the early 90′s for running a crack cocaine drug trafficking ring. Hall was a Savannah Police corporal at the time.

“I knew the scrutiny of my past would come. I’m not running from that. I want people to judge me on what I can do for this city,” Hall said.

The elections superintendent heard arguments from those challenging Hall’s qualifications, and Hall, before announcing a decision would come on September 10 on whether or not Hall could run for mayor of Port Wentworth - which is also the deadline for ballots to be printed in the upcoming municipal elections.

“To be honest, I look to go to superior court. Because I can’t, I don’t think I’m going to get a fair hearing here. I don’t care if they hear this or not. I think that the law is the law, and they should adhere to the law. If they want me to obey the law, then they should recognize the law also,” Hall said.

Hall says if the ruling doesn’t go in his favor, that he’s asking his name stays on the ballot until he can complete an appeal which would then put it before a Chatham County superior court.

Federal court records state that in 1988, Hall was a corporal with the Savannah Police Department and during that time he also organized and ran a crack-cocaine trafficking operation that extended from South Florida to Savannah. He was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 25 years.

According to Bureau of Prison, Hall served 22 years. He completed his sentence eight years ago in 2013. It’s his completion date that has become the centerfold issue after he filed for public office two weeks ago.

Hall is running for mayor in the November election.

A Port Wentworth citizen named Jodi Hawks has challenged Hall’s qualifications.

He says Hall is in direct violation of Section II, Paragraph III of the state constitution, which has to do with persons not eligible to hold office. It reads: “No person who is not a registered voter; who has been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, unless that person’s civil rights have been restored and at least ten years have elapsed from the date of the completion of the sentence without a subsequent conviction of another felony involving moral turpitude.”

During a press conference Tuesday morning outside of Port Wentworth City Hall, Hall revealed that his civil and political rights have been restored by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which he says allows him to run for public office.

“I received my restoration of civil and political rights on January 26th of 2021,” Hall said. “The restoration restored my rights immediately. Those restored rights include the right to sit on the jury, become a notary of the public and the right to run and hold public office.”

Hall also provided documentation from the state parole board.

The state’s restoration of rights and the Georgia Constitution seem to directly contradict each other. It’s an issue the Port Wentworth elections superintendent will have to decide. The hearing started at 10 a.m. on Friday.

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