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Illinois Supreme Court Rules Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa May Remain In Office Despite Felony Conviction

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Markham Mayor Roger Agpawa may remain in office despite a 1999 federal mail fraud conviction – reversing a lower court ruling.

The Illinois Appellate Court in April had ruled handed down a 2-1 decision ruling against Agpawa's eligibility to hold office. That ruling in turn reversed earlier decisions by a lower court and a local election board.

Agpawa ran and won office in 2017 but spent half his time fighting to get sworn in. Then-Gov. Bruce Rauner stepped in and restored his citizen's rights.

However, the appellate court ruled while Rauner had the power to pardon Agpawa of any state crimes, he overstepped his authority when he restored Agpawa's right to hold public office, which he lost as the result of a conviction in federal court.

The state Supreme Court did not agree with the conclusion. The justices said Illinois Election Code does not allow the governor to pardon people for federal crimes, but does allow the governor to restore people's rights after such a conviction.

"The plain language of amended section 29-15 of the Election Code and amended section 3-10-5(b) of the Municipal Code provides that a person convicted of an infamous crime loses eligibility to assume municipal office but may regain eligibility by a restoration of rights from the governor," the ruling said. "While the governor has no constitutional authority to pardon a federal conviction, the governor has statutory authority to mitigate the collateral electoral consequences of such a conviction by issuing a restoration of rights."

The Supreme Court also said the Appellate Court majority had concluded there was a "hole" in Illinois election law that left no legal path to restore eligibility for municipal elected office if someone is convicted of an "infamous" crime such as a felony, bribery, or perjury. The Illinois General Assembly has amended Election Code since Agpawa's rights were restored by Gov. Rauner – but the Supreme Court ruled that this legislation clarified there was never actually such a "hole," rather than fixing the hole, contrary to what the Appellate Court majority decided.

Given all that, the Supreme Court reversed the Appellate ruling and ruled that Agpawa may remain in office.

Read The Illinois Supreme Court Ruling:

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Following the Appellate Court ruling, Agpawa told CBS 2's Jermont Terry in April that he would not be stepping immediately aside "because we still have the right to appeal that process."

"I have to say I believe the (appellate) court got it wrong," he said. "[The voters] spoke very loudly with 81% of the vote in this community."

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