The campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz is calling on Democratic rival John Fetterman to fire two paid staffers who were convicted of murder and spent decades in prison before their sentences were commuted.
Mr. Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, responded that the two campaign aides were wrongfully convicted, although no courts have ruled that way.
The Oz campaign, which has criticized Mr. Fetterman for being soft on crime, pointed on Thursday to his staffers Dennis and Lee Horton, brothers from Philadelphia who were convicted of second-degree murder in 1993.
“John Fetterman consistently puts murderers and other criminals ahead of Pennsylvania communities,” said Brittany Yanick, communications director for the Oz campaign. “If John Fetterman cared about Pennsylvania’s crime problem, he’d prove it by firing the convicted murderers he employs on his campaign.”
Mr. Fetterman’s campaign called the criticism “a gross smear,” saying the brothers “were wrongfully convicted and spent almost 30 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf commuted their life sentences in February 2021 but did not undo their convictions.
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“This smear is a sad and desperate attack from Dr. Oz’s shambolic campaign,” Mr. Fetterman said in a statement. “Going after two campaign staffers is a new low for Dr. Oz. Dennis and Lee, who were wrongfully convicted, are two of the kindest, hardest working people I know — fighting for their release was one of the proudest moments of my career and I’m honored to have them on this team.”
Mr. Fetterman said, “Does Dr. Oz believe that the wrongfully convicted should die in prison? Does this man have any compassion? He’s making a predictable and fear mongering attack against two men who spent 27 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.”
Mr. Fetterman led the charge for the state Board of Pardons to commute their sentences to time served.
The brothers were profiled by PBS last year.
According to BillyPenn.com, the brothers “went for a fateful beer run” in 1993 when they gave a ride to childhood friend, not knowing the friend had just murdered a man during a robbery.
Police pulled over their car and arrested all three men. The Hortons were convicted of second-degree murder, which in Pennsylvania carries an automatic life sentence without possibility of parole.
“Despite more than a dozen motions, appeals, and, according to the brothers and their lawyers, deliberate negligence on behalf of police and prosecutors, the courts have yet to recognize their innocence,” the BillyPenn.com report stated in February.
The Hortons are field organizers for the Fetterman campaign.