by John Hrabe | January 29, 2014 8:53 am
State Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, has been found guilty on eight counts of felony voter fraud, perjury and filing a false declaration of candidacy. The jury of nine women and three men, which began deliberating last Friday, sided with prosecutors who had argued that Wright never lived in the 25th Senate District, which he was elected to represent.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office argued that Wright’s Inglewood home was “a Hollywood prop.” Wright’s defense, according to the Daily Breeze, was based on a 1982 lawsuit upholding the residency of a special district director. In addition to the Inglewood residence, the moderate Democrat had maintained residences in Baldwin Park and Sacramento. Even Wright conceded at trial that his official residence wasn’t where he spent most nights.
“If you asked me where I stayed the most, that’s kind of unfair,” Wright said on the stand. “I have three residences.”
At his March 12 sentencing hearing, Wright could face up to eight years and four months in prison. However, an attorney for Wright told the Los Angeles Times that they would appeal the verdict. It is unclear whether Wright will be able to retain his seat in the California Senate while he pursues an appeal.
Wright’s conviction is another blow to a state Senate that has been embroiled in scandal. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, initially described the verdict as “a punch to the gut.”
“I respect the jury’s verdict,” Steinberg said in a statement later released to the press. “Senator Wright is a valued colleague and he has the right to appeal this verdict.”
As to Wright’s future as a member of the Senate, Steinberg said he is consulting with his Senate colleagues and legal counsel about the Senate’s options. That didn’t appease Los Angeles Republicans, who quickly called for Wright’s resignation.
“Sen. Steinberg can save his crocodile tears,” said Mark Vafiades, Chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County. “As the most powerful Democrat in the Legislature, he has to bear some responsibility for the corruption that has taken place.”
Vafiades said that Wright’s conviction, coupled with corruption allegations against State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, represent a larger culture of corruption in the State Capitol.
“The Capitol’s Culture of Corruption has claimed yet another Democrat,” he said. “It proves beyond any doubt there is something seriously wrong with the absolute power that Democrats have amassed in Sacramento and the lengths they have gone and will go to collect and keep it.”
Wright has earned a reputation as a moderate Democrat who consistently bucks his party’s positions on controversial issues. An expert on energy policy, Wright has questioned whether the state’s environmental policies are based on sound science or over-hyped talking points.
“Wright often bucks his party’s orthodoxy,” observed Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. “But his self-appointed role as Democratic contrarian is in many ways refreshing and valuable to the legislative process, because he brings a level of common sense to many issues that is otherwise lacking in the robotic positions taken by members of both parties.”
By far the clearest example of his unorthodox views is on the Second Amendment. Wright has opposed background checks for ammunition purchases and bans on lead ammunition, large-capacity-magazine conversion kits and semi-automatic rifles.
The Calguns Foundation, which has been challenging the state’s conceal carry laws, owes much of its legal standing to Wright. In 1998, then-Assemblyman Wright authored the state law that requires state agencies to universally apply their regulations for firearm permits and follow a written policy on the process. In 2002, Wright was recognized by the National Rifle Association’s with its “Defender of Freedom” Award.
“You have to ask yourself the question,” Wright once asked in an interview. “‘It’s two o’clock in the morning and someone just breaks into your home, what do you want to have available to you?”
Wright’s office did not respond to a request for comment. However, during the trial Wright’s attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, criticized the district attorney’s case.
“Their case is unsupported by the existing law,” said McKesson, according to the Los Angeles Wave. “There’s no fraud here. There’s no victims. There’s no crime. To find him guilty of any charge in this case would be a gross injustice.”
The case against Wright has slogged on for three years, during which time Wright won re-election to the Senate in a different district following redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census. A Los Angeles County grand jury indicted him in September 2010.
Elected to the California State Senate in 2008, Wright previously served three terms in the California State Assembly representing the 48th Assembly District. From 1996 until 2002, he served as chair of the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce, where he developed his reputation as the Legislature’s top expert on energy policy.
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2014/01/29/state-sen-rod-wright-convicted-of-perjury-voter-fraud/
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