January 30, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
California State Senator Roderick Wright has vowed to appeal his conviction on eight felony counts relating to his residency in 2008 when he stated he lived in the district he represented. The Democratic state legislator could be sentenced to eight years in prison after a jury convicted of five counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy in a Los Angeles courtroom on Tuesday Jan. 28.
“Obviously we’re disappointed and we disagree with the verdict,”
“I believe I followed the law as written, and this case was decided not based on the law, but based on perceptions. I have great respect for our jury system, and to the jurors for their service. They did their best to delve into the nuances of legal language – between residence and domicile.
“In the end, we learned you can follow the law and still be charged and convicted based on others’ perceptions of the law. I look forward to proving my case on appeal.”
In September 2010, a Los Angeles County grand jury unsealed an eight-count felony indictment against state Wright accusing him of the misconduct beginning in 2007, when he changed his voter registration to run for the Legislature.
Wright pleaded not guilty, and argued he met all the legal criteria for running in what was then the 25th Senate District, including moving possessions into the Inglewood home he had owned since 1977 - where the woman he considers his stepmother lives - and registering to vote at the address.
However, prosecutors argued Wright did not live in the Inglewood home he listed as his address when he ran for office in 2008, and instead lived in Baldwin Hills, a neighborhood outside the boundaries of his working-class district.
Wright, 61, began his career in politics in 1996, working as District Director to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and was later elected to the California State Assembly in 1996 representing the 48th Assembly District from 1998 until 2002.
He served as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce (U&C) which held legislative jurisdiction over electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, private water corporations and other issues related to commerce and has been recognized for his work in the areas of public safety, education, energy and utilities, small business, family law and consumer privacy.
“Rod has been a faithful and beloved public servant for many years of the city of Inglewood,” Inglewood Mayor James Butts told the Sentinel.
“It’s tragic to see the outcome of this case and I wish him and his family all the best.”
Wright attended Pepperdine University and Washington Prep High School where he was a standout athlete in track and field.
He had been out of politics for six years when he defeated incumbent, the late Mervyn Dymally in 2008.
In spite of the conviction Wright will not automatically lose his seat in the Senate, according to Senate secretary Greg Schmidt. That would only happen if two-thirds of the 40-member Senate vote to expel him. Los Angeles County Democratic Party Vice Chair Bobby Anderson said she was “shocked” by the verdict.
“I am shocked that he was found guilty on all counts,” she explained to the Sentinel.
“I am really conflicted why this case was not heard by the Fair Political Action Committee instead of a criminal court. I am very disappointed.”
As of Sentinel press time, the California Legislative Black Caucus agreed to not release any statement either by the organization or any of its members.