Earlier today, the Vanguard reported that fliers featuring the mug shot and criminal convictions of ASPSU presidential candidate Tony Funchess were circulating around campus. The fliers were posted anonymously in resource centers and slipped under the security doors of various student media organizations.
The flier says that Funchess was convicted of second degree rape and third degree sodomy. Records obtained by the Vanguard indicate that Funchess was convicted of one count each of Attempted Rape II and Sodomy III.
The second degree attempted rape charge is in relation to a 2000 incident that occurred with someone who was at the time under the age of 14 and Funchess was 23. Funchess said the two are still in contact.
The third degree sodomy charge is related to a 2005 incident with a different individual who was under the age of 16 while Funchess was 28.
Funchess called a meeting with his slate, Step Up, Speak Out, Stand Together, in order to discuss the flier. Vanguard news editors were present for the meeting.
“I have no problem standing for what I believe in,” Funchess said. “I have no problem standing alone in this, but I want you all to have the choice to either stand with me or not, because this is just the beginning. And I have to live with this. I’ve been living with it and have figured out ways to navigate it and deal with it, but I’m not putting that added burden on any of you all. That is totally your choice whether or not you are going to continue.”
At the meeting, Kaitlyn Verret, the vice presidential candidate of SUSOST, said, “[Funchess] doesn’t stand alone on this issue. We stand with him.”
Vanguard news editors asked Funchess to respond to the circulation of the flier.
Vanguard: Can you explain some of the charges?
Funchess: It’s not [a Rape II charge], it’s attempted rape, because I would not agree to rape [as a criminal charge] when it comes to the woman I love and the children I have with this person…We were building a life, and then her mom went to the grand jury, and it blew both of our minds. When I was sitting in court and they tried to get me to take the [Rape II] charge, I fought them tooth and nail. And it came down to attempted [rape] because I’m not going to say I did something, and I’m not going to identify somebody as something they’re not.
VG: So is that how these convictions came about?
Funchess: Uh huh. Yes. Seven years after the fact.
VG: By the law’s standard, these women are victims. Do you see them as victims?
Funchess: The law has identified them as victims.
VG: Do you agree with that?
Funchess: I do. I do agree, to a degree. They are victims based off the definition that is set forward here. They are victims based off the fact that I have violated the state law.
VG: Why didn’t you disclose this information to the public?
Funchess: I talk about it so often. I talk about it on YouTube. I’ve talked about it on Facebook. I’ve had these conversations on campus before…I believe there’s a public right to know—absolutely. Do I believe I have the obligation to go to every single person and say, “Hey, this is who I am, this is what I did” over and over for 30,000 folks? Hell no. It’s unrealistic.
VG: Is President [Wim] Wiewel aware of your history?
Funchess: I would definitely think so. I don’t hide it.
VG: One of the things you said is that you hope people see this for what it is. So what is it?
Funchess: I want folks to see the placement of such a derogatory flier…as a smear tactic to derail the work that this slate is trying to accomplish, because it serves no other purpose. Folks want to have a conversation, that’s not how you have it.
VG: Do you think, in light of the fliers being posted, you’ll still be able to be an effective leader if you are elected?
Funchess: I believe so, because the leadership isn’t solely about me. It’s about a dynamic team of folks who bring their diverse perspectives. We all collaborate and work together to accomplish the multitude of changes that we have to accomplish here.
VG: Do you see your conviction getting in the way of any of your duties?
Funchess: It doesn’t impact the work. I’m really intentional about the things I become a part of so that I don’t cause harm in those spaces…We treat prison as a wasteland, and folks come home and we treat them as if they are nothing and have no value—I found that not to be true.
And so I live my life in a capacity to demonstrate the opposite of that. I have received so many “no’s” because of my felony conviction. But every time I received no…I try to demonstrate, one, what recidivism looks like, and, two, what positive change looks like.
VG: As a result of these convictions, are you required to register as a sex offender?
Funchess: For life.
VG: Is that public?
Funchess: They only publish predatory folks, and I’m not predatory.
VG: Are you on some kind of registry here at PSU that people can access?
Funchess: No, because that would be inappropriate for me or for anyone…When folks come out of [prison], when the system has said that they have served the time, we really need to move to a place to accepting that people have served their time. We have put in place probation, post-prison supervision, so that we can observe them as they transition back into becoming full citizens. I did that. I have completed that. At some point in time, there has to be some real freedom.
We cannot find freedom if we’re constantly labeling folks and [being] divided…I don’t think we need to constantly be harping on folks who have been through the system and who have paid their dues to society…It’s a set up to exclude folks that have something very great and potential to offer.
This is part of ongoing coverage. Visit psuvanguard.com for updates.
ARTICLE UPDATED 4/17 AT 1:55pm.