LOS ANGELES (AP) — California state Sen. Roderick Wright was convicted Tuesday of perjury and voter fraud for falsely claiming he lived in an apartment in the district he represents when he actually lives elsewhere.
The conviction on all eight felony counts doesn't immediately bar Wright from the Senate, though his colleagues could decide to remove the long-serving Democrat before he is sentenced.
Defense attorney Winston Kevin McKesson said he would file an appeal.
Prosecutors said Wright committed fraud when he made it appear that he had moved into an Inglewood property he owned in order to run in 2008 to represent the 25th Senate District. They said Wright actually lived outside the district.
Wright was charged with counts including perjury, false declaration of candidacy and fraudulent voting. He could face a maximum of eight years and four months in prison when he is sentenced on March 12.
Wright currently represents the 35th Senate District because of redistricting.
"It's a punch to the gut," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said of Wright's conviction. "We hold Sen. Wright in high regard."
Steinberg said it is up to the Senate, not the court, to decide if Wright should be removed from office. He said he will consult with his fellow senators, the Legislature's lawyers and Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, chairman of the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics, before deciding on any possible next steps.
Wright's conviction came as the state Senate waits to see if federal charges will be filed against another Los Angeles-area state lawmaker. Democratic Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello was removed from his committee assignments after a leaked FBI affidavit alleged that he accepted money to influence legislation.
Calderon has not been charged with any crime and denies wrongdoing.
"Of course I'm concerned" that Wright's conviction and the allegations against Calderon will harm the Legislature and particularly the Senate in the eyes of the public, Steinberg said.
"But as I've said before, the Senate is not only a great institution, it's an honest and ethical institution," he said. "We are faced with two very, very different situations, but two situations nonetheless. And I'm doing my very best to respect the membership, respect the affected members, but first and foremost to stand for the institution and protect the institution."
At Wright's trial, testimony focused on his living arrangements. He claimed that he lived in one unit of a five-unit complex in Inglewood and used the same address when he registered to vote in 2007. Prosecutors said he actually lived in a single-family home in the swankier community of Baldwin Hills, which was in the 26th District.
McKesson said Wright met the requirements for establishing a "domicile" in Inglewood.
Wright served in the Assembly from 1996 to 2002 and has been in the Senate since 2008. He is set to be termed out of office in 2016.
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