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TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2007

Judge delays Worley trial
Court questions felony charges against former secretary of state

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A judge delayed the start of trial Monday for former Secretary of State Nancy Worley on misdemeanor and felony election law charges and questioned whether the felony charges should have been filed.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs, who delayed Worley's trial until later in the week, said he was concerned whether felony charges were warranted under the circumstances.

Worley, a former Decatur High School teacher, is accused of sending campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers to five of her employees in the secretary of state's office. She is charged under a state law that makes it a misdemeanor for a public official to ask for campaign donations from employees and a felony for an official to use his or her position to influence the vote of any person.

Assistant Attorney General Ben Baxley told Hobbs that Worley was trying to influence votes by asking in the letter that the employees consider putting signs in their yards or bumper stickers on their cards. But Hobbs questioned how Worley's letter could be considered a felony.

"I have a hard time saying if I ask for a contribution it's a misdemeanor, but if I ask you to put up a yard sign it's a felony," Hobbs said.

Worley's attorneys have filed a motion asking all charges against the former secretary of state be dismissed. The judge could rule on that motion or on dismissing just the felony charges before a jury is picked to hear the case against Worley.

The judge delayed Worley's trial Monday so he could hear another case, but indicated jury selection in her case could begin by Thursday.

Worley declined to comment after Monday's court hearing, saying her attorneys have asked her not to comment about the case.

In April 2006, Worley sent letters on campaign stationery to employees in the secretary of state's office. The letters sought the employees' "support and vote" in the Democratic primary on June 6. Worley was being opposed in that primary by one of her employees, Ed Packard.

In the letter, Worley said, "I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window." She also wrote that "if you choose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me."

Worley's campaign contribution envelope had boxes where contributors could mark off donations ranging from $25 to $1,000.

Worley, who served one term as secretary of state, won the primary, but was defeated in the general election by Republican Beth Chapman. Worley has since been elected a vice president in the Alabama Democratic Party.

Worley has claimed the prosecution is a political vendetta against her.

During Monday's hearing, Worley's attorney, James Anderson, told the judge he wanted to be able to talk about political motivation for the prosecution during the trial.

"The complaint was made by Ed Packard, a political opponent. We have every right to question Mr. Packard about political motivation," Anderson said.

Hobbs said he would not stop defense attorneys from questioning Packard's political motivation, but did not want them implying that the prosecution by the Alabama Attorney General's office is politically motivated.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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