Convicted State Senator Introduces Crime Bill with Potential to Help Him

Monday, February 03, 2014

There may have been some merit to state Senate Bill 929, legislation introduced last week that would have changed some non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, but as Senate leader Darrell Steinberg’s spokesman, Rhys Williams, told the Associated Press, “Wrong senator, wrong time.”

The wrong senator is Roderick Wright, a Los Angeles County Democrat who was convicted of eight felonies for voter fraud and perjury two days before introducing the legislation. Williams said it wouldn’t get out of the Rules Committee.

Prosecutors told a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury that Williams did not live in the senate district he represented, a violation of law, and made an effort to cover it up. Wright and his lawyer argued that the Inglewood apartment occupied by his common law stepmother was his “residence” because he kept a few personal items there, but that his much nicer home in Baldwin Hills was his “domicile” because of its more permanent nature.

It is not clear if Wright’s legislation would have applied to his own situation, but this summary in the bill looks promising. A felony can be reclassified a misdemeanor . . .

“. . . if the court finds that certain circumstances apply, including that the defendant was not imprisoned in the state prison for the offense, the offense for which the defendant was convicted was not a serious or violent felony, as defined, the offense does not require registration as a sex offender, the defendant is not currently charged with and has not been convicted of an offense in the preceding 5 years, except as specified, and the defendant presents clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been rehabilitated.”

Wright spokeswoman Jennifer Hanson said the bill was not proposed for selfish reasons. She told the Los Angeles Times, “Senator Wright has worked for many years on issues of fairness in sentencing and ‘second-chance legislation’ with various community groups—including the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights—and was only continuing those ongoing efforts with the introduction of SB 929.”

Steinberg removed Wright from committee and subcommittee chairs he held, but left him his committee assignments. That brought a rebuke from fellow Democratic Senator Ronald Calderon, who feels he was treated more harshly after news of an FBI probe and allegations of bribery surfaced last October. Steinberg kicked him off all his committees.

The Senate Pro Tem said there would be no action to remove Wright from the chamber, for now, and it may be delayed until the judge affirms the jury verdict and the appeal process is completed.

Democrats have a slim two-vote super-majority cushion in the Senate.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Convicted State Lawmaker Introduces Crime Bill (by Don Thompson, Associated Press)

Convicted Sen. Wright Proposes Bill to Convert Felonies to Misdemeanors (by Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times)

State Senator Wright Loses Felony Court Case, but Not His Job (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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