Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman employs two convicted murderers on his U.S. Senate campaign. They were both granted commuted sentences thanks in part to the state’s Board of Pardons, which Fetterman oversees.
Dennis and Lee Horton were convicted of second-degree murder stemming from a 1993 fatal shooting during a robbery in Philadelphia and sentenced to life in prison. The brothers are listed on the Fetterman for PA Committee payroll, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and have received salary payments totaling in the tens of thousands of dollars each.
The campaign of his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) are calling on the Democrat candidate to fire the brothers.
“If John Fetterman cared about Pennsylvania’s crime problem, he’d prove it by firing the convicted murderers he employs on his campaign,” said Brittany Yanick, communications director of the Oz Campaign, in a statement.
“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 in a statement, adding:
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.
A 2021 court filing in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania cited the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County summary of “the facts underlying [Dennis] Horton’s convictions.” It reads as follows:
The evidence adduced at trial established that on May 31, 1993, Horton, his brother Lee Horton (“Lee”), and a co-conspirator Robert Leaf (“Leaf”) robbed Filito’s Bar located at 5th Street and Hunting Park Avenue. During the course of the robbery, [Horton], who was carrying a rifle, shot Samuel Alemo multiple times. Alemo later died from his gunshot wounds. [Horton] also shot Luz Archella and her daughter Luz Martinez, injuring both. Leaf brandished what appeared to be a black pistol while Lee took money from bar patrons. After leaving the bar, the three men fled in a blue automobile. A passerby was able to supply police with a description of the vehicle and a partial license plate number. A radio call was sent out, which included a description of the three assailants, their vehicle, and the last four digits of the license plate. A police officer observed the vehicle a short time later only a mile from the crime scene and placed [Horton] and his companions under arrest. Police recovered a .22 caliber semiautomatic rifle from the backseat of the car as well as a black pellet gun under the front passenger seat. Ballistics testing identified the rifle as the same weapon used during the robbery at Filito’s. [Horton], Lee, and Leaf, who was wearing an orange hooded sweatshirt at the time of his arrest, were taken to the hospital where Martinez and her daughter, as well as another bar patron Miguel DeJesus, identified them as the robbers.
The brothers rejected plea deals that would have freed them years ago and maintained their innocence throughout their prison terms, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in September 2020. They asserted that they picked up Leaf moments before police initiated the traffic stop. He was found in the backseat where the .22 caliber was.
As lieutenant governor, Fetterman chairs the five-person Board of Pardons in Pennsylvania, which saw commutation recommendations to Gov. Tom Wolf (D) skyrocket under his leadership. As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Julia Terruso first reported in May, the board has suggested 46 commutations under Fetterman’s chairmanship.
“That’s compared with just six in Wolf’s first term, none under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s one term, and only five during former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell’s eight years in office,” Terruso wrote.
In December 2020, by a 4-0 vote, the board recommended commutations for the Horton brothers, which Wolf signed. The following February, Wolf announced that the duo, along with eleven other convicted murderers facing life sentences, were granted commutations.
“Each of these Pennsylvanians is fully deserving of the chance to return to their families and start a new life,” said Fetterman in the release. Two months later, the Hortons began receiving regular salary payments from the Fetterman for PA Committee, federal records show.
The Hortons’ sentences were commuted despite pleas from Alamo’s brother Reinaldo.
“They took a human life, and they don’t deserve to be out in society,” he said, according to the Inquirer’s 2020 article.