Holton, a deacon, clutched what appeared to be a Bible and sat with family members during the 90-minute hearing. She declined to comment afterward.
The West Baltimore councilwoman is charged with conspiracy to violate campaign limits by requesting that developers John Paterakis and Ronald H. Lipscomb fund a $12,500 poll for her re-election campaign. State law limits donors to $4,000 per candidate per four-year election cycle.
Holton is also accused of conducting campaign activity outside a campaign organization because she requested that the developers pay the pollster directly; the payment therefore was not reported as a campaign donation.
Unlike other hearings in a cluster of City Council corruption cases, this one delved deeply into a bookish discussion of the words, and even comma placement, in the state's campaign finance statute.
Joshua Treem, Holton's attorney, argued that the case should be thrown out because the city's Circuit Court, not the District Court, has jurisdiction. The Maryland statute says that either court can hear a case where the penalty is more than three years of confinement or a fine of $2,500. The crime Holton has been accused of carries a $25,000 fine.
Treem said both conditions must be met for the Circuit Court to hear the case. " 'Or' does not necessarily mean or and 'and' does not necessarily mean and," Treem said.
Prosecutors disagreed, relying on the dictionary definition of "or," which allows either condition to be met.