State Sen. Rod Wright, an Inglewood Democrat who once headed the powerful Governmental Organization Committee, was sentenced Friday to three months in jail and banned for life from holding public office for lying to the public and election officials about his true place of residence.
He also was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to perform 1,500 hours of community service and required to pay $2,000 in restitution.
Wright, 62, was convicted in January in Los Angeles Superior Court of eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud in a case spanning nearly seven years.
Wright said during the trial that he believed he was following the law regarding his Inglewood residence and did not intend to claim the Baldwin Hills home as his primary residence.
Wright was sentenced by Judge Kathleen Kennedy, who earlier had delayed the sentencing several times since March 8 while Wright and his attorneys prepared an appeal. Wright is scheduled to enter custody on Oct. 31. Wright has been suspended from the Senate pending an appeal.
The question remains whether he will be removed from the Senate, an action that requires a vote of his colleagues. The Senate adjourned for the year on Aug. 31 and is not scheduled to return to Sacramento until December for a brief organizational session.
Prosecutors believe the ban on holding public office takes effect immediately upon sentencing.
“Starting today, he’s barred from holding any future elective office,” Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, told the Los Angeles Times. Wright had been told earlier that he would be expelled if he is sentenced and does not step down. When the seat becomes available, Gov. Brown has the authority to call a special election to fill the vacancy.
Wright, who was indicted by the L.A. County grand jury in 2010, was accused of falsifying his home address as an apartment in Inglewood, which then was within the boundaries of the 25th Senate District, where Wright ran for office in 2008.
Actually, Wright was living in Baldwin Hills, according to prosecutors. Wright improperly voted in five elections, and misrepresented himself in official documents when he registered to vote and filed his candidacy. Wright successfully ran for reelection in 2012.
Wright said during the trial that he believed he was following the law regarding his Inglewood residence and did not intend to claim the Baldwin Hills home as his primary residence. State legislators – unlike members of Congress – are required to live in the district they represent.
The Inglewood home was within the district; the Baldwin Hills home wasn’t. He was convicted of lying about his true address and lying on registration and candidacy documents.
During the past year, Wright is one of three senators – all Democrats – who faced felony charges. The others, Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco and Ronald Calderon of Montebello, have been indicted on multiple federal corruption charges stemming FBI undercover operations. In the case of Yee, who at one time was a leading contender for the secretary of state’s office, the allegations include conspiring to smuggle guns and wire fraud.
As chair of the G.O. committee, Wright wielded unusual authority on gambling issues and was viewed as the Legislature’s expert on internet poker, a policy issue that repeatedly has emerged in recent years.
The committee targets legislation dealing alcohol, gambling and horse racing. The panel also considers bills related to government operations and – surprisingly — the National Guard.
Ed’s Note: Includes comment 7th graf that ban on holding public office starts immediately.