ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland lawmaker’s future in office is uncertain after she entered a plea deal on Tuesday to settle two separate criminal cases for paying an employee in her law office $800 in state money and using campaign money to pay for wedding expenses.
Delegate Tiffany Alston, D-Prince George’s, made the plea agreement on the day she was scheduled for trial in the wedding expenses case. A jury found her guilty in June in the case involving state money. She pleaded no contest to charges relating to the wedding expenses.
It was unclear exactly what the conditions of the plea deal ultimately will mean for Alston’s ability to serve in the House of Delegates.
“We are awaiting the record of the court proceedings and will review those, but decline to comment for the time being,” said David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland attorney general.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul Harris sentenced Alston to one year of jail with all of the time suspended for misconduct in office relating to the payment to her employee. She also was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and 300 hours of community service. She must pay the money back to the state.
State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt told reporters it was his understanding that Alston will at least be suspended.
Alston received a sentence of probation before judgment on a theft count in the case. She also received probation before judgment for using campaign money to pay for wedding expenses.
Once she fulfills the community service for misconduct in office and pays back the money, she also will receive probation before judgment on that charge, which would remove the conviction.
Alston told reporters after court that she would wait and see how the plea deal ultimately will affect her ability to serve out the rest of her term.
“This is probably the first time that the state is going to have to deal with this, so we’re going to have to wait and see,” Alston said.
Rauof Abdullah, Alston’s lawyer, said the outcome of the agreement can result in Alston having no convictions.
“We believe that, in the end, the result will be that she will have a clean record, and she’ll be able to come back and serve her constituents,” Abdullah said.
In court, Alston tearfully said she accepted responsibility for what she described as accounting mistakes at the worst. However, she said none of her actions had criminal intent.
“There was no malicious intent on my part to defraud anyone,” Alston told the judge.
Alston, 35, also said she believes her prosecution was politically motivated, an allegation denied by the judge and Davitt, who noted that prosecutors were informed of Alston’s actions before she was sworn in to her first term in the House of Delegates in January 2010.
Harris noted that a jury had found Alston guilty of using state money to pay an employee in her private law firm.
“There was nothing political about this case,” Harris said. “We can never downplay the importance of the public trust.”
Alston’s trial on the charges of paying wedding expenses with campaign money was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)