Three of the Detroit mayoral candidates were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the offenses date back some years, but the most recent was in 2008. More than 82 percent of Detroit’s inhabitants are black.
The Detroit News examined the backgrounds of all the mayoral contenders. The state’s election laws, allows convicted criminals to vote and run for office as long as they are not in prison or guilty of certain fraud-related offenses, or crimes involving a breach of the public trust.
At least three candidates have said their criminals past is a motivating factor in their decisions to run. Donna Marie Pitts has embraced her multiple criminal convictions. “I don’t hide it. God has brought me out,” Pitts told The Detroit News. “I hope (voters) don’t look at it as negative but as my experience, and I can help. I want to fight for them.”
Pitts has been convicted of receiving and concealing a stolen vehicle. She was sentenced to a year of probation. A decade later, she was charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder and two firearm offenses in connection with two separate shooting incidents, according to Detroit Recorder’s Court records.
In September 1987, a jury convicted Pitts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, after the shooting involving the shop owner as well as a firearm offense. Jurors acquitted Pitts of charges connected to the incident involving the officer. According to transcripts, Pitts was involved in a shootout with the owner of an auto repair shop in Detroit in a dispute over a repair bill.
After her sentence, Pitts served some four years and eight months. According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, she received parole in 1992. In September 2000 she was arrested for fleeing and eluding and operating a vehicle without a license.
Most recently, the mayoral hopeful was convicted of firearm possession and carrying a concealed weapon, Wayne County Circuit Court records show. In 2002, a .38 caliber handgun was found on the front floor board of the truck. She was ordered to serve 40 to 60 months in prison in April 2003. She was paroled in August 2006, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Pitts maintains that she has been wronged by the courts and police, and disputed many of the allegations in each criminal case, saying she was “discriminated against”.
Yet another candidate, Articia Bomer, was charged in 2008 with carrying a concealed weapon. Bomer, said she’s running for mayor on a platform of “preservation, restoration and revitalisation”.
She also maintained that her conviction was “frivolous” and “wrong.” But she added that her criminal past was not her focus and she doesn’t believe “that should hinder me”.
Danetta L. Simpson, also a candidate, was convicted for assault with intent to murder. Simpson’s conviction stemmed from an incident with a woman who was living with the father of her two children. An altercation ensued where the woman claimed Simpson shot at her but missed. She claims she was wrongfully convicted. “I’m not out here just to run for name recognition,” said Simpson.
Simpson said she represents a “new spirit” for Detroit. “I was a wrongfully convicted felon, overcharged for a crime I did not commit,” she said because the witness in the case “lied on me”.
Candidate Curtis Christopher Greene was charged in 2004 with delivering and manufacturing marijuana as well as fleeing and resisting the police. Greene violated probation in July 2005 when he was arrested and charged for fraud. The case was not prosecuted however.
“I believe I’m the one to change the city,” Greene told The Detroit News. “Something put this in my heart to do it now.”
The city has the second highest murder rate in the United States after another city where at least half the population is also African-American, namely St. Louis. The major US port in the state of Missouri, built along the western bank of the Mississippi River, on the border with Illinois, now has the highest murder rate at 49.9 murders per 100 000 inhabitants, compared to Detroit’s 43.5.
Local crime rates in Detroit are among the highest in the United States, and vast areas of the city are in a state of severe urban decay. In 2013, Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in US history.
Detroit has been the most dangerous city with a population over 200 000 for three years in a row since 2012. It has remained in the top ten. All statistics are based on 2014 data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
There are 19 American cities with populations over 100 000 that have majority black or African-American populations.
It has been a violent start to 2017 in Detroit.
Murders and shootings spiked in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, according to crime records first reported by Steve Hood on the 910AM Superstation.
The city recorded 66 murders from January to March, a 14 percent increase over the same period in 2016. Non-fatal shootings rose 11 percent and burglaries increased by 5 percent to 2 008.
Detroit saw an unusual spike in serious crimes from March 20 to 26, with murders jumping a 100 percent with burglaries and car thefts rising by an average 22 percent.
“Black marks on your record show you have lived and have overcome some challenges,” a political consultant and former press secretary to Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer said. “They [the candidates] deserve the opportunity to be heard, but they also deserve to have the kind of scrutiny that comes along with trying to get an important elected position.”
The NAACP activist Greg Bowens, a former press secretary to Archer, said some of the candidates having problematic pasts but it was not unique to Detroit. The eight contenders will be narrowed to two who will face off in another round.
Detroit’s mayoral primary election will take place Tuesday.