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Nominee says arrest should not be a factor

[05/09/01] Democratic nominee for South Ward alderman Pam Johnson said she hopes her 1995 arrest on drug charges will not affect the outcome of the June 5 municipal election.

Records show Johnson, 35, owner of a hair salon, was arrested March 31, 1995, at a party on Smedes Street and charged with possession of a controlled substance. Records also show a felony indictment for possession of cocaine by the October 1995 grand jury, but that Johnson later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge.

“I prayed about that before entering the race,” Johnson said when asked about her arrest.

Johnson, who defeated Carl Marshall Upton, 41, in the May 1 Democratic primary, said she was attending a party at 506 Smedes St., when Vicksburg police raided the home and she was one of five people arrested on drug charges.

Her plea of no contest was to a charge of possession of paraphernalia. By pleading no contest, Johnson did not admit guilt, but did not dispute the charge.

She was sentenced in 1998 to 60 days in jail, which was suspended, and fined $305. The fine was paid Sept. 3, 1998, about three and a half years after the arrest.

“I’ve been sincere with people about everything,” Johnson said. “Everybody here knows me and everybody knows everything about me.”

Under Mississippi law, a person convicted of a felony cannot serve in public office. People with misdemeanor criminal records are not restricted from serving.

Records also show that in 1997, two years after her arrest, Johnson went before the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen asking city officials not to transfer then-Sgt. Walter Beamon from the narcotics division of the police department. She told the former administration under then-mayor Joe Loviza that Beamon’s leadership had reduced drug-related crime in the city.

Beamon was later returned to the narcotics division after the election of Robert Walker as mayor and police commissioner, but Walker and Police Chief Mitchell Dent transferred Beamon to the detective division in 2000.

Johnson said she hopes people will leave the past in the past.

“I have had to overcome a lot,” she said. “I feel like I have been led to (run for public office) by God.”

Next month, Johnson’s name will appear on the ballot in the general election with Republican nominee Sidney H. Beauman Jr., 52, and independents Vickie Bailey, 33, and Ashlea Mosley, 18, on municipal ballots.

The winner of that race will replace incumbent Sam Habeeb representing the residents of the South Ward on the city board. The post pays $45,491 a year.

In other races, incumbent Mayor Walker, 57, will face independents Eva Marie Ford, 63, Laurence Leyens, 37, and Loviza, 61, in the general election. Walker is seeking his third full term, and Loviza is looking for a second term.

In the North Ward, two-term incumbent Gertrude Young, 45, who defeated three challengers in the Democratic primary, is facing one challenger in the general election, Sylvester Walker, 40.