Detroit Voters Elect a Convicted Felon to Serve in State Legislature

Rep.-Elect Brian Banks' crimes involved bad checks and credit card fraud.

Posted: 11/12/2012 01:49 PM EST
Brian Banks

(Photo: Brian Banks/Facebook)

Detroit native Brian Banks won a seat in Michigan's state assembly with a commanding lead of 68 percent, but the representative-elect may never be sworn in. Banks, 35, is a multiple convicted felon, which, according to some of his prospective colleagues, makes him unfit to serve. CBS Detroit has reported that some Michigan lawmakers may try to stop him from taking office.

Banks' crimes involved writing bad checks and credit card fraud for which he was convicted eight times between 1998 and 2004. But that didn't stop him from using the campaign slogan "You Can Bank on Banks." It also didn't stop a majority of Detroit voters from giving him their support.

Voters in 2010 approved an amendment to the state's constitution that prohibits anyone convicted of a felony in the past 20 years from running for office only if the conviction was "related to the person's official capacity while holding any elective office."

It gives people like Banks a second chance, but bans others like former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who committed his crimes on the taxpayers' time and dime, from holding office again.

"Yes, as a young adult I made a number of poor decisions which taught me a very valuable lesson and inspired me to pursue my education and use my experience to deter other young adults from making the same choices," Banks told the Detroit Free Press during his campaign.

Since turning his back on crime after his last conviction eight years ago, Banks says he's earned a GED, bachelor's, master's and law degrees and is working on a Ph.D. And he's not the first felon to be elected to the state legislature. Michigan State Sen. Bert Johnson, who also has served as a state representative and is African-American, was convicted of armed robbery when he was 19.

Rep.-elect Theresa Abed told CBS Detroit that she's "troubled" by Banks' election and that lawmakers should have integrity and must "be trusted to make decisions in all circumstances."

The man Banks beat agrees.

“You can’t be an attorney or doctor with a felony, and I don’t think you can teach elementary school with a felony,” Republican opponent Dan Schulte told the Free Press during the campaign. “If you can’t do any of those things, I don’t know why you can be a legislator.”


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