The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Thursday called on John Fetterman to fire two men who were convicted of murder in a 1993 bar slaying in Philadelphia and now work on his senatorial campaign staff.
The Fetterman campaign responded by calling the move a “sad and desperate attack” from a “shambolic” campaign.
The two men, brothers Dennis and Lee Horton, both work salaried positions for Fetterman’s U.S. Senate campaign. FEC records show Dennis and Lee make anywhere from $1,400 to $2,600 per two-week period, although the processed data in the FEC database does not indicate particular job titles.
READ MORE — Fetterman acknowledges health challenges linger, declines debate with Oz
They were charged and convicted of murder in a holdup of Felito’s Place, a bar that used to occupy a space near 5th and Hunting Park Ave. According to a Daily News report of the 1994 trial, prosecutors argued that 39-year-old Samuel Alamo was killed by a blast from a gun fired by Dennis Horton. The 51-year-old bartender and her 32-year-old daughter were also reported injured in the melee.
The brothers maintained their innocence in the years after, and in late 2020, Lt. Governor Fetterman and the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons recommended the pair for a sentence commutation. Governor Tom Wolf did exactly that, commuting their sentence to life on parole in February 2021.
The brothers say they went on a beer run, and had the bad fortune of picking up Robert Leaf shortly after the incident. Leaf was also convicted of murder, but on a lesser charge, and was paroled in 2008, according to media reports.
The NRSC dropped the press release on the same day that Gov, Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman announced their intentions on implementing a “one-time, large-scale pardoning project for people with select minor, non-violent marijuana criminal convictions.”
The NRSC’s release signals that Republicans and allied political action committees will be pressing Fetterman on his criminal justice record. For example, the NRSC release pointed to a Politico article on Fetterman that said he had taken the “throw away” job as chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and had “turned it into a cause célèbre and his prime focus as lieutenant governor.”
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.
“John Fetterman has a long record of being soft on crime, which he constantly tries to hide from voters and the press,” said NRSC spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow. “He wants to release one-third of inmates onto Pennsylvania’s streets and now has two convicted murderers working on his campaign. He needs to start putting Pennsylvania communities ahead of murderers and other criminals and can start by firing the two convicted murderers he’s employed.”
Fetterman denounced the move by the NRSC.
“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,” said Fetterman. “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.”
Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit media endeavor dedicated to sharing voices and stories that are shut out of other media outlets. @BroadAndLiberty