Governor told convicted delegate can't return

The Maryland attorney general's office advised Tuesday that Del. Tiffany Alston, convicted of misconduct in office, cannot return to the General Assembly even though a judge subsequently granted her probation before judgment.

In a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley, Attorney General Douglas M. Gansler stood behind his office's previous advice that Alston, a Prince George's County Democrat, had been automatically removed from office on Oct. 9 as a result of a plea agreement under which she waived her rights to an appeal.

O'Malley sought the attorney general's advice after Alston asked that he not move forward with a nomination to replace her. Her attorneys contend that she became eligible for reinstatement when a judge on Nov. 13 modified her one-year suspended jail sentence to probation before judgment. Under such a judgment, a conviction does not go on the record of a defendant who completes probation successfully.

The governor also asked last Friday that the Prince George's Democratic State Central Committee withdraw its nomination of businessman Greg Hall as Alston's replacement. In general, when a lawmaker leaves the legislature partway through a term, the governor automatically appoints the nominee of the departing legislator's party.

Since the central committee acted Nov. 2, some members have raised questions about the wisdom of nominating Hall, who served a 40-day jail term for a misdemeanor gun offense in connection with a 1992 incident that left a 13-year-old boy dead.

The attorney general advised O'Malley that the committee may withdraw its nomination because the governor has not yet signed Hall's commission. General Assembly counsel Dan Friedman said the committee can then submit another recommendation but that it wouldn't be binding because it would fall outside the legal deadline. That would leave O'Malley free to make his own choice unless the committee decided against withdrawing Hall's nomination.

In another in a series of letters released Tuesday, the attorney general's office advised that Alston, convicted of taking $800 from her legislative office account for use in her law firm, could not be nominated by the committee and appointed by the governor to return to her old seat. Alston's attorneys have indicated that they are planning a lawsuit to force her reinstatement.

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