WATCH: Shouting match erupts as black councilman barred over decades-old drug charge
A raucous shouting match broke out Monday night at the swearing in ceremony for four newly elected city council persons, when one new member was refused his seat due to a decades-old drug conviction, reports KDKA.
Councilman-elect Corey Sanders — a local businessman and deacon at his church — was told he couldn’t take his seat after McKeesport Solicitor J. Jason Elash read a letter from District Attorney Stephen Zappala, stating Sanders was barred due to a felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance in 1993.
According to the DA, Sanders would have to be pardoned for the offense — to which he pleaded no contest and served four years — by the governor before he can be seated.
“It is unfortunate that this situation has arisen given the fact that Mr. Sanders has put his past indiscretions behind him and, by all accounts, lived an exemplary life since then,” Assistant District Attorney Kevin Francis McCarthy wrote in a letter to McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko. “Nonetheless, we are all called upon to uphold the Constitution and laws of Pennsylvania.”
Sanders had been forewarned that he might be barred and had been sworn in by a judge earlier in the day, but was not allowed to be seated at the inaugural 2016 meeting.
The announcement that Sanders was being denied his seat was greeted with shouts and booing from the audience, causing the meeting to be adjourned before it barely started.
“He’s changed his life, he owns a home in the city,” local Pastor Earlene Coleman explained. “He has a family. He’s a deacon. You know, he’s changed his life completely. So why are we putting things that happened back in 1993 still carrying them on his shoulders.”
Asked about being blocked, Sanders told reporters, “No reaction. No reaction at all.”
An attorney for Sanders has already made a request to the governor for the pardon.
Watch the video below from KDKA: