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Judge send Pennsylvania state Sen. Washington's corruption charges to trial

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:39 p.m.
 

ABINGTON — Pennsylvania state prosecutors won a first step on Wednesday in their corruption case against state Sen. Leanna Washington, securing a judge's ruling that they have enough evidence for a trial on charges that Washington crossed the line when she allegedly ordered taxpayer-paid employees to organize an annual “birthday party” political fundraiser.

For eight years, Washington pressured her Senate staff to devote weeks to drawing up guest lists that included city and state officials, creating invitations and taking money from invitees that ultimately went to Washington's campaign account, prosecutors say.

They also allegedly used taxpayer-paid computers, copiers and office supplies.

District Judge John Kessler ruled that testimony from one of Washington's former employees, Jamila Hall, was strong enough to allow the case to go to trial. In a grand jury presentment issued with the charges March 12, prosecutors listed seven current or former employees or interns, including Hall, who said they witnessed or carried out tasks to organize the fundraisers.

Washington, 68, declined comment after the two-hour hearing at Kessler's Montgomery County office. Washington, a Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, is running for a third full term this year.

The charges against Washington include one count each of theft of services and conflict of interest, both felonies.

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