Charges dismissed in Harris election case

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - A decision tonight in the case of a local civil rights icon accused of using "fraudulent tactics" to win a city council seat in Hopewell. The ruling: Reverend Curtis Harris can keep his council seat.

The decision was unanimous. A three judge panel dismissed charges against Reverend Harris.

Reverend Curtis Harris walked out of court victorious.

"In the end we knew there was no case," said Harris.

A petition contesting his landslide win for the Ward Two city council slot was filed by former candidate and competitor Yolanda Stokes.

Stokes claims signatures to get Harris on the ballot were "collected by persons not qualified to receive them". There were also accusations of "harassment and intimidation" at the polls by the Harris camp.

"I hold that position. He did not come out in the community and get those petitions. This is all about following procedures," said Stokes.

Inside the courtroom the judges called the allegations "deeply concerning". They said even if the accusations were true Stokes didn't prove the outcome of the election would have been different. Harris won 50 percent of the vote -- his three competitors split the other 50-percent.

The judges decided to rule in Harris' favor after stokes concluded her case.

"They didn't get to hear our side of the story but nevertheless they were satisfied at the conclusion of everything Stokes had to say," said Harris' attorney Stephen Heretick.

Harris' attorneys referred to Stokes as a "sore loser". Stokes, who represented herself in court, says she's not a sore loser but a fair player.

"It's a win-win. I think. It wasn't about me or Rev. Harris. It was about the process," said Stokes.

Harris says the city is better off that the case was heard and decided in court. He says he now plans on moving forward as the city council representative from the second ward.

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