A second indictment for Del. Alston

Del. Tiffany T. Alston, the freshman state lawmaker known most for changing her position on same-sex marriage, has been indicted again for theft.

State prosecutors say they have uncovered evidence that she used taxpayer money to pay the salary of an aide working at her private law firm.

The indictment comes three months after Alston (D-Prince George’s) was charged with stealing campaign funds to pay for her wedding and using campaign funds to pay for the salary of a law firm employee. Alston denied wrongdoing on those charges.

The new charges allege that Alston arranged for an employee of her law firm to be hired by the state and “paid by the Maryland General Assembly at a rate of $100.00 per day,” according to a release Thursday from the state prosecutor’s office. “That employee, who was paid $800 by the State of Maryland in January 2011, never worked in Annapolis and continued to perform her regular law firm duties.”

Alston did not respond Thursday to a phone and text message seeking comment.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) ordered the state budget analyst’s office to conduct a biweekly review of Alston’s state accounts and to verify the timesheets of her staff.

“The allegations of theft of state dollars warrants an immediate response,” Busch said Thursday in a statement. “I am taking this action to ensure public accountability pending a judicial resolution of the charges.”

The indictment by a Anne Arundel County grand jury adds theft and misconduct charges to an already long list of charges that could carry significant jail time if Alston is found guilty.

Alston already faces a charge of felony theft, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. She also is charged with one count of misdemeanor theft, one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and two election law violations. The misdemeanor theft charge carries a potential 18-month prison term.

According to state prosecutors, Alston wrote herself checks from her campaign account and cashed them to pay at least $3,560 in expenses for her wedding day. She also allegedly wrote herself checks to help pay the salary of an employee in her law firm.

The indictment follows a string of embarrassing moments in court for Maryland politicians in recent months, including the sentencing of former Prince George’s county executive Jack B. Johnson and his wife, Leslie, a former Prince George’s County Council member, and the conviction of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, for election law violations involving a 2010 Election Day robocall.

Alston’s case is scheduled to be heard May 14, 2012.

In the spring, Alston was a co-sponsor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage but voted against the final legislation. It was defeated.

 
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