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Worley's attorneys fight against felony charges

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Lawyers for former Secretary of State Nancy Worley are urging a state appeals court not to reinstate felony charges against her and are using the state attorney general's opinions to bolster their arguments.

Attorney General Troy King said Thursday that Worley's attorneys are misconstruing the opinions written by him and another attorney general.

Worley's lawyers are trying to get the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to uphold a Montgomery judge's decision to throw out five felony charges accusing her of using her office to try to influence a vote. The charges stem from Worley's re-election campaign last year when she sent a campaign letter, bumper sticker and campaign contribution envelope to five of her employees.

Worley was also indicted on five misdemeanor charges involving the same letter, but her trial on those charges is on hold pending a ruling by the appeals court on the felony charges.

In a 52-page brief filed Wednesday, Worley's attorneys cited advisory opinions that Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued to Gov. Fob James in 1996 and that King issued to Gov. Bob Riley James in April. They said the opinions provide that under Alabama's campaign laws, officials can ask people for their votes as long as they don't offer a reward or a threat for voting in a certain way.

Worley's attorneys said it was wrong for the attorney general to bring felony charges against her because she did not make any threats in the letter. Instead, the letters told employees there would be no repercussions if they didn't support her.

"It's pretty simple within the law," defense attorney James Anderson said Thursday.

Worley's legal brief did not mention party affiliations, but she is a Democrat and the advisory opinions cited by the lawyers involve Republican attorneys general giving advice to Republican governors.

King said the advisory opinions dealt exclusively with officials educating the public about pending legislation, referendums or constitutional amendment.

"Ms. Worley's conduct was directed at influencing the votes of her subordinate employees in her own election. The distinction is obvious," King said.

Worley's attorneys said the distinction is immaterial because the campaign laws apply to all votes.

King said he and his staff are still reviewing Worley's brief and will file a response with the court by Oct. 17. Then it will be up to the court to rule.

Worley's attorneys told the court that its decision could have enormous impact on Alabama politics.

"If the felony statute prohibited an official from merely asking for support — or from doing so while mentioning the fact of his or her incumbency — that would mean that every official campaigning for re-election is guilty of a constant stream of felonies," they wrote.

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

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