Monday, February 28, 2011

Wright's lawyers fight residency indictment

Attorneys for state Sen. Roderick Wright will try to get the Inglewood Democrat's eight-count felony indictment thrown out by arguing that prosecutors misled grand jurors weighing whether he lived in his district, in part by not telling them about relevant case law and election codes.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy is expected to take up the motion to dismiss the case, along with the prosecution's response, during a pretrial conference Thursday.

The district attorney's office obtained an indictment on two counts of perjury, one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy and five counts of voting fraud, all stemming from Wright's claim to have been living in a multi-family complex he bought some three decades ago in Inglewood, in the 25th Senate District he represents. Prosecutors allege he instead lived at a single-family home in Baldwin Hills, outside the district, and lied about it to run for office.

Prosecutors also alleged that Wright had concocted a phony residence in a friend's home to run for a Los Angeles City Council seat in 2003, according to a grand jury transcript. The circumstances of that unsuccessful race are not part of the indictment, but prosecutors cited it in attempt to show a pattern of deceptive behavior.

Wright has pleaded not guilty and is free on $45,000 bail.

"The law governing one's legal residence, or 'domicile,' for voting purposes … is considerably more complicated than the district attorney led the grand jury to believe," Wright's lawyers, Fredric D. Woocher and Winston Kevin McKesson, say in their 33-page rebuttal filed with the court. "Indeed, the term 'live' is not used once in the numerous statutory provisions defining 'residence' and 'domicile' for voting purposes."

They cite California Elections Code Section 2026, which states the "domicile of a member of the Legislature ... shall be conclusively presumed to be at the residence address indicated on that person's currently filed affidavit of registration."

The attorneys also argue that a search of Wright's Baldwin Hills and Inglewood properties in 2009 was "irrelevant" because Wright by then had moved most of his personal belongings to Sacramento, where he has spent the bulk of his time since elected in 2008.

When he is in Southern California, Wright's attorneys contend, the senator splits his time between the Inglewood property, where he rents a room, and the Baldwin Hills house, where he conducts business.

In briefs arguing against the motion to dismiss, Deputy Dist. Atty. Sandi Roth said the Elections Code section cited by Wright's attorneys applies to incumbents, not candidates. She said she did not mention it to grand jurors "because it is wholly inapplicable in this case."

Additionally, she said, the section "was never intended to grant immunity from prosecution to those who falsify their residence address with the intent to deceive voters."

Roth reiterated in court briefs evidence that Wright lived in Baldwin Hills, including utility bills, personnel records of the Legislature, an emergency contact listing and a statement from the woman with whom he purportedly shared the Inglewood home, stating that he did not live there.

Prosecutors alleged that Wright had devised a scheme to register to vote, sign candidacy papers (under penalty of perjury) and illegally vote in five elections using the Inglewood address while living in Baldwin Hills.

Wright's attorneys said that he had always intended to make the Inglewood property, which he bought in 1977, his permanent home and that he used the Baldwin Hills home, purchased in 2000 as an investment property, mainly for business, not as his residence.

By By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times,

Source: Los Angeles Times

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