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Former Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse for her trial on charges of violating election laws on Wednesday.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Former Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse for her trial on charges of violating election laws on Wednesday.

No felony charges for Worley
Judge drops counts against former secretary of state, keeps misdemeanors

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — A judge dismissed felony election law charges Wednesday against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley but left intact misdemeanor counts in the case.

Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs ruled the state law that makes it a felony for a state official to use his or her position to influence someone's vote "is vague, overbroad and it violates the Alabama Constitution."

Hobbs made his ruling just as Worley's trial was to begin on charges she violated Alabama's election laws. The judge then agreed to delay the trial while state prosecutors appeal his ruling to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Attorneys said the appeals process could take several months.

Worley 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 was 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.

Hobbs said the felony part of the law would make it difficult for any elected official to run for re-election.

"Just about any act of elected officials asking people to vote for them would fall into this felony," Hobbs said.

Worley declined to comment after the hearing, saying her attorneys have asked her not to talk about the case. One of her attorneys, James Anderson, said Worley was pleased that the felony charges were dropped.

"She's had real good results so far. She's happy," Anderson said.

Dropping the felony charges would cut almost in half the possible penalty facing Worley. If convicted, the felony charges carry up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The misdemeanors carry up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

The prosecutors, Assistant Attorney General Ben Baxley and Deputy Attorney General Ben Lisenby, declined to comment. But in a brief filed with the court Wednesday, they defended the felony charges and said Worley did more than just ask the employees for their votes.

"The state expects witnesses to testify that Worley, in her capacity of secretary of state, told employees that she could find out if they voted and for whom they voted," the prosecutors said in their brief.

Anderson denied that Worley made that statement and said it would be impossible for the secretary of state to find out how someone voted.

Attorney General Troy King said he was disappointed that Hobbs dropped the felony charges.

"The right to vote, and the freedom to do so, are far more sacred and important than misdemeanor charges of soliciting money from a subordinate," King said. He said he believes the Court of Criminal Appeals will overturn Hobbs' decision.

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

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