Gavel

By Laurel Rosenhall
lrosenhall@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Sep. 12, 2014 – 10:02 am

A state Senate roiling from turmoil this year was dealt another blow Friday when a Los Angeles judge sentenced Democratic Sen. Rod Wright to three months in jail for lying about where he lived when he ran for office in 2008.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy upheld a jury’s verdicts from January that found Wright guilty of eight felonies, including perjury and voting fraud. She sentenced him to 1,500 hours of community service and three years’ probation in addition to the jail time, which she ordered him to begin on Oct. 31.

From the bench, Kennedy admonished Wright for disrespecting the electoral process when he ran for office claiming a home he owns in Inglewood as his official address, while really living outside the Senate district in the tonier neighborhood of Baldwin Hills.

“I think jurors really have a nose for when someone is lying,” she said, according to an Associated Press report from the courtroom. “It didn’t smell right then, and it doesn’t smell right now. … I think the jury complied with the law and came to the right conclusions.”

The judge said Wright is barred for life from holding elective office. But it didn’t appear Friday that the ban would take effect immediately, leaving open the possibility that Wright may continue to draw his $95,291 annual salary until he steps down or is formally ousted by his Senate colleagues.

They voted in March to suspend him, taking away his ability to perform any legislative duties but maintaining his pay.

Two other Democratic senators suspended on the same day as Wright – Sens. Ron Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco – are awaiting trial after being indicted in unrelated federal corruption cases. They are likely to continue receiving their salaries until their terms in office expire at the end of this year.

At the time he moved to suspend all three senators, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said it would be improper to permanently expel Calderon and Yee since they have been charged but not convicted. And in Wright’s case, Steinberg said, a conviction wasn’t final until the judge ruled.

Now that she has, Steinberg called on Wright to resign. But he stopped short of saying he’d call a vote of the Senate to expel him.

“Senator Wright has a right to appeal as a citizen, but his constituents cannot continue without representation in the state Senate. I have stated from the beginning my belief that somebody convicted of a felony while in office cannot continue to serve. I have therefore asked Senator Wright to resign,” said a statement from Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Republican leader Sen. Bob Huff also called on Wright to resign.

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