NEW LONDON – When Eddie Long was asked by members of the New London Green Party if there was anything stopping him from running for city council, he said he wanted to be frank.
Long, 39, whose first name is Leon but will appear as Eddie Long in Tuesday’s local elections, took the opportunity with Green Party members to discuss his previous criminal convictions.
Public records show that Long’s criminal history includes convictions for two Class D felonies: second-degree strangulation and violation of a protective order. He has also been convicted of violating the suspended sentence. Class D crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison.
Long said he’s never kept it a secret, but it’s something that doesn’t come up easily in a conversation.
The domestic violence charge stems from an arrest by Waterford Police on 7 July 2013. Long eventually received a full suspended sentence and two years probation, but spent several months in prison before sentencing.
In an interview on Friday, Long was emotional and said the charges stemmed from an incident that began with an argument with his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his two children. A witness reported that he had strangled her. His ex-girlfriend was pregnant at the time, and according to court records, there was a protective order in place preventing Long from having any contact with her.
Although he gave no further details, Long alleges that the incident did not take place as reported and that his ex-girlfriend supported him in his subsequent attempt to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
The full details of the incident that led to the arrest were not immediately available from the state due to the elapsed time since the conviction. The Day filed a request for court records with the state on Friday shortly after learning of the convictions.
Records show that in 2014, Long did not contest the charges of second-degree strangulation and violation of a protective order and pleaded guilty to violating the condition of probation. In a no contest or nolo contendere plea, a defendant agrees to accept a conviction and punishment, but admits no guilt.
Under state law, a person is guilty of second-degree strangulation or asphyxiation when “a person holds another person by the neck or throat, or plugs the nose or mouth of such other person, with intent to impair that other person’s ability , to breathe … .”
“It was a long way from there to here. Now my ex and I get along well, work together and coordinate,” Long said. “I see my kids every week. It really was a different time for all of us. I love and care for my children.”
The Day became aware of Long’s arrest file late Thursday after learning of Long’s first name. Long said he was known to many of his friends as Eddie – his father is also Leon Long – and decided to use that name in his campaign. The choice of name has nothing to do with his beliefs, he said.
Long said the convictions were a consideration when entering the political arena and sometimes served as roadblocks to employment. He now works as Continuity Director at Cumulus Media New London, is a member of the New London Arts Council and Co-Chair for Public Art for Racial Justice Education. He is a strong advocate for the New London arts scene.
“We’ve all made mistakes, and some of them are bigger than others,” Long said. “We all have to support ourselves and work and make up for everything we did wrong. I find some redemption in my work, but it doesn’t change my past. It sucks.”
New leader of London’s Green Party, Ronna Stuller, said Long disclosed that he had a criminal record, but party members believed “his current contributions to the arts community and his ideas for the city’s economic development offer a more relevant view of the value that he could bring to the city council.”
“We stand by this decision,” she said.
“Greens support criminal justice reform that focuses on redress and restorative practices and believe past missteps should not prevent anyone from fulfilling their potential or serving the common good,” Stuller said in a statement. “We’ve always been committed to watching people’s struggles and providing the resources to overcome them, and are grateful to have Eddie bring his experience and skills to the table as he joins Kris (Wraight) and Keith ( Kimball) represents.”
Wraight is seeking a seat on the council and Kimball is seeking a seat on the board of education.
Daryl Justin Finizio, attorney and former mayor of New London, said he has known Long for more than a decade and has represented him in noncriminal cases in the past. He said he supports Long’s candidacy for a council seat, will vote for him and hopes others will do the same.
“He’s a very good person who has a lot to offer the community,” said Finizio. “I constantly represent people who have made mistakes. You learn from them and grow from them.”
Tamara Lanier, vice president of the New London NAACP, a retired probation officer and former chair of the state NAACP’s criminal justice system, said Connecticut has made strides to ensure people are not discriminated against based on criminal records. For example, the state cannot automatically deny a job to an applicant because of a criminal record.
State legislatures, Lanier said, have also taken steps to strengthen domestic violence laws in recent years.
“None of us are infallible,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s done since (sentencing) to address his past issues.”
While the charges are “alarming,” Lanier said, “ultimately, New London voters will decide.”