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Court dismisses two of eight charges against state Sen. Rod Wright; appeals expected

March 3, 2011 |  3:25 pm

A  judge on Thursday dismissed two of the eight felony counts against state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood).  However, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy refused to dismiss the entire case, as Wright's attorneys had asked.

One of Wright's attorneys, Fredric D. Woocher, said they will appeal the judge's refusal to dismiss the case.  Deputy Dist. Atty. Sandi Roth said she will appeal the judge's dismissal of the two counts, which have to do with the two elections Wright voted in after he was in office.

The eight charges -- two counts of perjury, one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy and five counts of voting fraud – were  contained in a grand jury indictment in September. Prosecutors obtained the indictment after a two-year investigation of whether Wright lied about where he lived to run for the 25th State Senate District, a seat he won in 2008.

Prosecutors allege that Wright had concocted a scheme to register to vote, sign candidacy papers and vote in elections using the address of a multi-unit rental property in Inglewood he owned but never lived in.  They alleged he lived  instead in a house in Baldwin Hills, outside the  Senate district, and cited in part evidence gathered during a 2009 search of both properties.

Wright's attorneys said he met the residency requirements and cited 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 said Wright rented living space in a house on the Inglewood property and had purchased the Baldwin Hills home for investment purposes.  Further, they said in their motion seeking to dismiss the indictment that the evidence gathered in the 2009 search was irrelevant because Wright was already in office by then and spending most of his time at his Sacramento apartment.

Roth said in her rebuttal that the elections code section applies to incumbents, not to candidates, and was "never intended to grant immunity from prosecution to those who falsify their residence address with the intent to deceive voters."

Roth said after court Thursday that she expects the intended appeal to help clarify the elections code section.  Kennedy ruled that Section 2026 did apply to Wright once he took his state Senate seat and therefore could not be prosecuted in connection with the two elections he had voted in as an incumbent.

"We're grateful the court recognized [Section 2026] applied, whereas the D.A. did not," Woocher said.  But he added that he and attorney Winston Kevin McKesson believe the judge "went only part of the way" and will seek a full dismissal of the case on appeal.

The judge did not set a date for Wright's next court appearance, presumably to allow time for the appeals to be filed and heard.

--Jean Merl