Prince George's delegate reaches 'agreement' in criminal cases

Tiffany Alston due back in court next week

September 13, 2012|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Prince George's County Del. Tiffany Alston, who was to be sentenced next month after a conviction for stealing $800 from the General Assembly to pay the salary of an employee at her private law office, is expected to enter a plea next week in a second criminal case — and an end to the legal drama is likely to push the Bowie Democrat from her seat in the Legislature.

Both Alston's lawyer, J. Wyndal Gordon, and Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt declined to say more Thursday than that the midafternoon negotiations that replaced a pretrial hearing in an Annapolis courtroom produced an "agreement" that would cover both criminal cases.

Davitt characterized it in court as "a total resolution." Gordon, who said Alston was taking painkillers following foot surgery, said the agreement was not yet in writing. Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. referred to it as a plea when he set the case for Wednesday afternoon.

In June, the freshman delegate was convicted of misdemeanor theft and misconduct in office — a conviction that, if it stood, would probably shove her out of office. Harris had said at the time that he'd wait to sentence her until the outcome of her October trial on charges that she dipped into her 2010 campaign funds to buy a wedding dress and pay other expenses.

The state Constitution provides for the suspension of a delegate convicted of certain types of crimes, including those related to elected office, but only after sentencing.

It allows the governor to appoint a temporary replacement while the case is on appeal — and Alston's lawyers had vowed after her conviction in June to appeal. Before that trial, her lawyers contended the criminal investigations were political retaliation.

Until criminal charges were lodged against her last year, Alston was best known for walking out of a House Judiciary Committee voting session on the gay marriage bill, withdrawing her support even though she co-sponsored it, and being among lawmakers who exited a Legislative Black Caucus meeting in a move that reduced the group below the quorum it needed to take a position on Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed congressional redistricting map.

Alston was one of the Prince George's County children who benefited from the "I Have a Dream" program co-sponsored by the late Abe Pollin, owner of Washington professional sports teams, according to her lawyers. The organization promised that if the students completed high school, it would pay for their college or other education. It paid for Alston's undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, her lawyers said, but they did not know if it funded the law degree she received from the University of the District of Columbia

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