Democratic State Senator Roderick D. Wright loves his district in Los Angeles County, just not enough to live there. That might not only be considered disrespectful; it’s illegal, and on Tuesday a jury convicted him of eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury.
The charges grew out of a grand jury investigation in 2010. Wright, elected to the Senate in 2008, claimed his residence was in a 4-unit rental property he owned in Inglewood. The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury agreed with prosecutors that he really lived in a home he owned since 2000 in nearby upscale Baldwin Hills. The apartment he claimed to live in was occupied by his “common law” stepmother.
Wright maintained that he always intended for the Inglewood apartment to be considered his legal “residence,” which he considered somewhat different than a “domicile.” Legally speaking, a “residence” is temporary, while a “domicile” is more permanent, his lawyer argued.
He never claimed a homeowner’s tax exemption for the Baldwin Hills house and listed Inglewood as home on his driver’s license and, of course, his voter registration. Wright has some personal possessions at the Inglewood apartment.
Wright has been involved in state politics for 30 years. He was a district administrator for Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters before getting elected to the state Assembly in 1996. Wright served until 2002, when term limits forced him out. He worked as a political consultant until his election to the Senate.
Wright faces eight years and four months in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12. An appeal is expected. He does not automatically lose his Senate seat. That would take a two-thirds vote of his colleagues. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who said it hasn’t been decided what the next step would be, told reporters after the verdict, “We hold Sen. Wright in high regard.”
The Los Angeles Times couldn’t find anyone who could remember a state Legislator being tossed out over a residency issue. A tougher call for the lawmakers might be deciding what to do about another state senator, Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), if bribery allegations in an FBI investigation unveiled last November are proven in court.