ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Jurors deliberated for more than three hours Monday without reaching a verdict in the case of a Maryland lawmaker accused of misdemeanor theft and misconduct in office.

The jury began debating the case against Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Prince George’s County Democrat, at about 2:30 p.m. They returned to the courtroom to end the first day of deliberations at about 6:15 p.m. They are scheduled to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Alston is accused by state prosecutors of paying an employee in her law office about $800 in state funds by saying the employee was a member of her legislative staff. Her attorneys say the employee performed legislative work, and that prosecutors have failed to prove otherwise.

Shelly Glenn, a senior assistant state prosecutor, told the jury in closing arguments that Alston committed theft by “tricking the General Assembly” into allocating the money for a legislative staffer, not an employee in her law firm.

“She did it only by the virtue of the fact she is a sworn public official,” Glenn told the jury.

But Raouf Abdullah, one of Alston’s attorneys, contended that the prosecution failed to prove that the employee did not do legislative work. Even if the employee never set foot in the state capital, it doesn’t mean she did not do legislative work for Alston, Abdullah said.

“They simply allege that she did not work in the district office,” Abdullah said.

Alston could lose her seat in the House of Delegates if she is convicted. The state’s constitution says any state official who is convicted of a misdemeanor related to the lawmaker’s public duties and responsibilities — and involves moral turpitude that carries a penalty of incarceration — will be suspended without pay or benefits from the elective office, pending a final conviction after judicial review.

Alston faces up to 18 months of incarceration on the theft charge.

Alston also faces charges in a separate case that she used campaign funds for wedding expenses.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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