WASHINGTON (AP) — Maryland State Delegate Tiffany Alston was charged Friday with using campaign funds to pay for wedding expenses and for the salary of an employee at her law firm.

Alston, 34, was indicted on one count each of felony and misdemeanor theft, misappropriation by a fiduciary and two election law offenses.

Prosecutors say Alston, a Prince George’s County Democrat who took office in January and then played a focal role in the General Assembly’s debate over gay marriage, issued two campaign account checks totaling $3,560 to cover her wedding expenses last year. She also used her campaign account to make payments of $660 to a law firm employee, and also withdrew $1,250 in cash for personal use last December, prosecutors say. The checks for her wedding expenses were returned to the bank for insufficient funds.

“Under these circumstances, there is simply no excuse for candidates or their responsible campaign finance officers to flagrantly and repeatedly violate the requirements of the law in the conduct of their campaign finances,” State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt, whose office brought the charges, said in a written statement.

The office began investigating following a tip from a county government employee, said James Cabezas, the office’s chief investigator.

The indictment was returned Friday by an Anne Arundel County grand jury.

Alston did not immediately return calls left at her Statehouse office or at her law office. It was not immediately clear if she had a lawyer. House Speaker Michael Busch said in a written statement that the General Assembly would not take any action while the court case was pending.

“Once the judicial process has concluded, we will determine the appropriate course of action,” Busch said.

Alston made news in March during the General Assembly’s debate on gay marriage.

She sponsored a bill to legalize same-sex marriage but, along with another lawmaker, left the committee room before the measure came up for a vote, temporarily stalling the measure. She later voted against the bill in committee, saying she was having trouble balancing her personal views and pressure from constituents.

Alston faces as many as 18 and a half years in prison if convicted of all five charges in the indictment, though defendants in non-violent cases hardly ever receive the maximum possible sentences.

The charges against Alston are the latest in a series of corruption allegations levied against county officeholders in recent years. Ulysses Currie, a state senator, was charged last year with using his influence to benefit a grocery store chain for which he worked as a consultant. He stepped down from his chairmanship of a powerful spending committee but remains a senator and recently won re-election. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

And former County Executive Jack Johnson recently pleaded guilty to shaking down developers for cash and other favors in exchange for doing business with the county. His wife, Leslie, a former county council member, has pleaded guilty to flushing an illicit $100,000 check down the toilet as FBI agents knocked on the couple’s door.

Darrell Miller, the former mayor of Capitol Heights and a former candidate for the county council, was indicted separately Friday on charges that he used campaign funds for personal expenses. A phone message left at a listing for a Darrell Miller in Capitol Heights was not immediately returned.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Eric Tucker

Associated Press