By Caitlin Johnston, Capital News Service
Delegate Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George's) struck a plea bargain Tuesday morning on charges of using campaign money to help pay for her wedding.
Prosecutors said the plea will result in her suspension from the Maryland House of Delegates, but Alston and her attorney remain hopeful she will maintain her position.
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt and Alston's attorney J. Wyndal Gordon reached the agreement just before trial was scheduled to start in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
Alston, 35, was found guilty in June on a separate charge of stealing from the General Assembly to pay an employee at her law firm.
Tuesday's plea bargain requires Alston to complete 300 hours of community service, pay $800 in restitution and serve three years of supervised probation. The plea bargain also allows for a chance to clear a previous sentencing on misconduct in office, on the condition that she pay the restitution and complete her community service.
While those penalties are straightforward, both sides maintain a fundamental disagreement about whether or not she'll stay in office. Davitt said Maryland's Constitution requires Alston to give up her seat, but Gordon said that is to be decided by the attorneys for the General Assembly.
"As the court has agreed to strike the guilty finding and enter probation before judgment, I'm not totally convinced it's as cut and dry as the state says it is," Gordon said. "This is probably perhaps the best resolution, because it allows her to remain in office and leave her fate with her colleagues as opposed to with the jury of Anne Arundel County."
This is not something that will be decided in the short run, Gordon said. Until then, Alston will work to complete her community service hours.
The attorney general's office, which advises the General Assembly, is awaiting receipt and review of the court proceedings, and declined to comment at this time on the case.
Alston broke down in tears outside the courtroom while discussing the support she's received from constituents, many of whom sent letters, cards and gifts.
"My constituents have been wonderful," Alston said. "I just spend a lot of time praying and being thankful for what I do have."
Alston, who represents parts of Prince George's County in District 24, was elected in 2010. Before the corruption trials, she may have been best known for stalling progress on same-sex marriage legislation when she failed to show up for a committee vote on a bill she co-sponsored.
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