Ex-Sen. Wright Serves One Hour for Eight Felonies because of Jail Overcrowding

Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Roderick Wright

Former state Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) spent 70 minutes filling out paperwork at the downtown Los Angeles jailhouse—where he was sentenced to spend 90 days for lying about where he lived—before walking out a free man.

Wright, 62, can thank his former fellow lawmakers for facilitating his jail break last Friday by failing to relieve the overcrowded conditions in the penal system that are forcing reduced jail time. California has been trying to meet years of federal court directives to reduce its state prison population by shifting the assignment of certain low-level offenders to already overcrowded county jails.

Wright was convicted of eight felonies by a jury in January and was sentenced to three months in lockup. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy also fined the ex-lawmaker $2,000, ordered him to perform 1,500 hours of community service and put him on probation for three years for living five miles outside his district, in a much nicer area, and lying to investigators about it. He resigned three days after his sentencing hearing.

He was the third California senator charged with a felony in a 12-month period. Senator Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) was indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly accepting nearly $100,000 in bribes and gifts. Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested in a sting operation for allegedly offering to sell illegal weapons to a federal agent. Neither has pleaded to charges.

Some critics of the state’s residency requirement think it is vague, and Wright argued in court he was innocently following his understanding of the requirement. But Judge Kennedy said he understood the law and displayed “arrogance” by acting as if it didn’t apply to him. The Associated Press said she pretty much called him a liar. 

The California Police Chiefs Association predicted that passage of Proposition 47 in Tuesday’s election will further exacerbate the jail overcrowding problem by reducing the classification of “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The proposition covers drug possession and includes shoplifting, check and credit fraud, forgery, theft and possession of stolen goods when the offense involves less than $950. The new maximum sentence will be one year in jail, instead of a three-year max.   

Maybe the next politician sentenced can just fill out the paperwork online and avoid a jailhouse visit altogether.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Roderick Wright Arrives at Jail but Is Released because of Crowding (by Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times)

California State Senator Sentenced to 90 Days in Prison Serves About an Hour (by Reid Wilson, Washington Post)

State Senator Wright Sentenced for 8 Felonies but May Not Serve Time (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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