- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland lawmaker found guilty of misdemeanor theft and misconduct charges is fighting for a plea agreement that would allow her to remain in office, her attorneys said Wednesday.

Delegate Tiffany Alston, Prince George’s Democrat, failed to reach an anticipated plea deal Wednesday with state prosecutors after an afternoon of negotiations.

Mrs. Alston was found guilty in June on charges that she paid an employee at her law firm with money from a no-show, $100-a-day legislative job. She faces another trial next month on charges that she used campaign funds to pay for her wedding and other personal expenses.

Her attorneys said they are “very, very close” to an agreement with prosecutors that would resolve both cases but still face several sticking points — including whether she should be forced out of office.

“Obviously there’s still more negotiation that we need to do, but I think the heavy lifting is done,” said Alston attorney J. Wyndal Gordon. “Right now, we’re stuck on the details of what it all means in the long and short run.”

State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt declined to comment on the case Wednesday afternoon.

State law allows Mrs. Alston to remain in office until her sentencing, at which point her conviction could result in removal from office.

Mr. Gordon declined to comment on his client’s other demands but acknowledged that she wants to keep her seat and that prosecutors likely want her out.

He said the sides began discussing an agreement last week but held off on major negotiations while Mrs. Alston recovered from foot surgery for which she was on painkillers.

Mrs. Alston’s second trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 9, but her lawyers are seeking to have her June conviction thrown out on grounds that state investigators gave improper testimony on behalf of Rayshawn Ford, the employee whom prosecutors say was paid with state funds for her law duties.

Investigators testified that Ms. Ford told them she received the pay illegally, but she said on the witness stand that the pay was legitimate. Mrs. Alston’s attorneys are arguing that the investigators’ testimony amounts to hearsay.

That motion will be heard Nov. 5, unless the sides reach a plea agreement beforehand.

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