Dressed in a bright-green blouse, Toni Smith emerged from a courtroom Tuesday with a smile on her face.
The 78-year-old had just signed papers agreeing to perform 35 hours of community service, nothing the iconic York City activist is a stranger to. She figured she'd mentor teenagers.
She could have fought the charges, Smith said, but that would have cost taxpayers more money.
"I made a mistake," she said. "I didn't understand the law."
The case against the former York City councilwoman, who was accused of violating the election code last year, came to a resolution Tuesday in a York County courtroom where Judge John S. Kennedy agreed to admit Smith to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders.
The program will allow Smith to resolve the case against her without admitting guilt or facing trial. In addition to performing community service, she is required to pay court costs.
Smith was charged in October with unlawfully donating cash to a committee that distributed fliers criticizing another candidate before last year's primary. She allegedly made a $950 cash donation to the Committee for York's Future, which used the money to produce a flier questioning Michael Helfrich's ability to hold public office because of a 1991 felony drug conviction.
The district attorney's office alleged Smith violated a section of the election code that states it is unlawful to make a cash contribution that "exceeds $100 with respect to any candidate for election."
At a preliminary hearing, a district judge determined enough evidence existed for the case to go to trial. In February, Smith waived her formal court arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty. York County District Attorney Tom Kearney later recommended Smith for the ARD program.
An objection: Smith's potential admission to the program prompted objections from a political rival in the form of a letter submitted to the judge and a public statement Tuesday. Former city councilwoman Vickie Washington said she believed the judge might set a dangerous precedent by admitting a person accused of violating the election law into ARD.
Kennedy said he agreed with Kearney that Smith was an appropriate for the program, having been charged with a third-degree misdemeanor.
After the hearing, Smith did not rule out a return to York City politics.
After 16 years on the council, she narrowly lost her bid for a fifth term in last year's general election. The winner, Helfrich, is fighting his own court battle over his eligibility for public office.
She's not planning to run again, Smith said, but she could be swayed by the field of other candidates.
"People want me to come back," she said. "I know I can win."
- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or email@example.com or on Twitter @ydcity.