Charges against Prince George's delegate to go to jury

Theft and misconduct charges against Del. Tiffany Alston are expected to go to a jury Monday, one of two criminal cases against the Prince George's County lawmaker.

Prosecutors are accusing Alston of using $800 in General Assembly funds to pay a clerk for doing work for her law practice in Lanham in January 2011, after a bank closed Alston's firm's depleted checking account. A bank official told jurors that Alston's firm bounced 49 checks in 2010.

Alston's defense has maintained that the employee did legislative work for her, not in the state capital but in a district office that was in a suite of offices where the law firm had recently relocated.

Alston, a freshman Democrat from Bowie, did not testify during the trial before Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Harris Jr.

Jurors, who are expected to hear closing arguments Monday morning, heard four days of conflicting testimony. Witnesses included the employee in question, Rayshawn Ford, who testified that she did legislative work in the delegate's district office; she said she had previously told prosecution investigators it was law firm work because they had threatened her.

But investigators in the State Prosecutor's Office said she had grown reticent and that although she didn't want to cooperate, they didn't threaten her.

Denying a defense request to throw out the case, Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. said he found Ford "to be not credible" on the witness stand.

Before the trial started, the defense contended that the charges against her were political payback for her opposition to Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed redistricting plan and her wavering support of same-sex marriage. The defense did not present those issues to the jury.

Jurors were not told that Alston faces another set of criminal charges. Those allege that she illegally dipped into her campaign coffers to pay for her wedding and other expenses. A trial is scheduled for the fall.

Alston faces other legal troubles. The state's Attorney Grievance Commission argued this week for the Court of Appeals to suspend her law license indefinitely for unrelated reasons.

The commission contended Alston had not complied with terms of its earlier monitoring of her law practice and then did not respond to its attempts to contact her. She told the court that she had decided to go into public service and wanted to keep the law license whether or not she was practicing law.

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