Campaign charges against Alston were backlash for gay marriage bill, defense alleges -- Gazette.Net







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Hearing postponed for former Capitol Heights mayor Miller

A Friday hearing was postponed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court for a 2010 Prince Georgeís County Council candidate accused of using his campaign money for his own personal use.
Darrell Miller, 48, a former District 7 County Council candidate and former mayor of incorporated Capitol Heights, will have his status conference on Dec. 16, according to Anne Arundel County Judge William C. Mulford II.
Millerís Greenbelt-based attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., said the lawyers ďneeded more time to prepare.Ē
Miller was indicted Sept. 23 on charges of using more than $1,000 of Friends of Darrell A. Miller campaign money for personal use.
His trial is scheduled for Jan. 10 in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.
Miller could face 10 years in prison for felony theft, according to state law. Miller had no comment.

The defense attorney for state Del. Tiffany Alston, who has been charged with misusing her 2010 campaign money, claims the charges against her are a backlash for Alston withdrawing support from a 2011 same-sex marriage bill.

J. Wyndal Gordon, one of the attorneys representing Alston (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville, also said Friday that state prosecutors violated Maryland code by not giving Alston a copy of the subpoena used to obtain her financial records.

Her Friday status conference was postponed by Anne Arundel County Judge William C. Mulford II after Alstonís defense received 800 pages of discovery to sift through.

Her motions hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7, and her trial is scheduled for Jan. 10, one day before the Maryland General Assembly session starts.

State law says Alston could face 10 years in prison for felony theft, and would have to give up her delegate seat if she were either convicted or pleaded no contest. Alston hasnít entered a plea, according to Maryland District Court records.

She was indicted Sept. 23 on charges of using more than $3,500 of campaign funds for her own wedding, $1,250 for personal expenses and $660 for an employee at Alston Law Office LLC, her Lanham-based law firm, her indictment states.

Gordon said the money in question was Alston's own that she expected to get a reimbursement from through the campaign.

Any discrepancies in her campaign finances that normally would have been handled in an administrative setting were criminalized instead because of backlash over her decision to withdraw support from the gay-marriage bill, he said. The bill would have afforded same-sex couples in Maryland benefits such as partner health insurance.

After Fridayís status conference was postponed, Gordon said state prosecutors did not follow Maryland Code when they failed to give Alston a copy of a subpoena for records such as her joint marital account and an Alston Law Office LLC escrow account.

He cited section 1-304 of the Maryland Financial Institutions part of the Maryland Annotated Code, which says places such as a bank can release a personís financial documents as long as that person has been given a copy of the subpoena that his or her records will be searched or there is proof the court has waived the stipulation that Alston would receive a copy of the subpoena.

The penalty for not following these rules is $1,000, the code states.

"The prosecutor overreacted in requesting subpoenas for any financial account of Alston's without providing Alston a copy of the subpoena," Gordon said.

Gordon also filed a motion to dismiss the case due to an improper venue. Gordon said he believes Prince George's County residents deserve to hear this case in the county's circuit court because the alleged mishandling of funds would have occurred in Prince George's, not Anne Arundel County.

Raouf Abdullah, a second defense attorney, added that the original indictment failed to list specific dates for when checks were cut, what dates they were cut and included date ranges instead.

In response to questions about the subpoena, state prosecutor Emmet Davitt said in an email Friday that it would be "inappropriate" for him to "comment on allegations in a pending motion" before issuing a response.

"We will, however, respond to the motion and bring all appropriate compliance documentation to Court at the motions hearing on [Dec. 7]. ... All discovery documentation in support of the charges has been provided," Davitt wrote.