Former state delegate Tiffany Alston’s conviction earlier this year for misusing General Assembly funds was stricken from her record Tuesday, and her lawyers say she’ll fight to reclaim her seat.
Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Paul Harris made clear that Alston’s conviction was not overturned, but rather that she was being granted probation before judgment because she complied with the terms of a plea agreement.
Alston (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, make restitution for $800 to the legislature and pay a $500 civil citation as part of a separate plea agreement struck last month.
Per the agreement, Harris modified the verdict Tuesday once prosecutors accepted that Alston had completed her community-service requirement.
Now, Alston hopes to regain her seat in the House, said her lawyer, Raouf M. Abdullah. “[She] intends to resume her duties as soon as possible.”
This is easier said than done, however.
According to the legislature’s lawyer, Alston was permanently removed from office by act of law after she pleaded no contest to separate charges that she used campaign money for personal expenses, including wedding bills.
“No subsequent modification of her sentence by the trial court can result in her restoration to office during this term,” wrote Dan Friedman, counsel to the General Assembly in the Office of the Attorney General, in a Nov. 1 letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis.
Busch said in a statement Tuesday that he would stand by Friedman’s decision.
“My first responsibility is to protect the institution of the House of Delegates,” Busch said in the statement. “Until all legal issues are resolved, I will follow the Maryland Constitution and the advice of the Office of the Attorney General.”
The Prince George’s Democratic Central Committee has selected a replacement, Greg Hall, to fill Alston’s seat, but he has yet to be appointed by the governor.
But Abdullah said that because the possibility existed that the conviction could be stricken, Alston’s sentence was never finalized, and there is no basis in the law for her removal.
“[Alston] is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to maintain her right to represent her constituents,” Abdullah said, adding that that included legal action.
Alston likely will show up for work at her legislative office in Annapolis within the next day or two, Abdullah said.
“I expect she would have to go to work and be denied so that some legal, some justiciable conduct has taken place that could require the court’s intervention,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, Alston’s other attorney.
At an initial modification hearing last week, State Prosecutor Emmett C. Davitt told the court he was skeptical of Alston’s claims that she had worked numerous, sometimes consecutive, 15- to 18- hour days at a pair of community organizations in Prince George’s County in the month since her plea deal.
Davitt said Tuesday that Alston had worked an additional 80 hours and that the state was now satisfied that she had completed her requirement.