Industry observers were shocked this week to learn that Californian politician Rod Wright (58), a firm advocate for licensed online poker and sports betting in the state, has been indicted on serious charges.
The LA Times newspaper reports that the Inglewood Democrat is the subject of an 8 count indictment unsealed by a Los Angeles County Grand Jury this week which accuses him of filing a false declaration of candidacy, voter fraud and perjury beginning in 2007, when he changed his voter registration to run for the Legislature.
Among the allegations, all of which the state Senator denies, is a claim that he listed as his residence a home in the district he wanted to represent when his actual home was elsewhere.
The indictment also alleges that Wright fraudulently voted in five elections in 2008 and 2009.
If convicted, Wright faces up to eight years and four months in state prison, the district attorney's office told the LA Times.
Wright was arraigned Thursday before Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg. He pleaded not guilty and was released after posting $45,000 bail, an amount requested by Deputy District Attorney Sandi Roth. Wright is due back in court October 8.
The newspaper reports that in 2009 authorities searched two residences owned by Wright, one a multi-family complex in Inglewood, in the 25th Senate District that he was elected to represent in 2008, and the other a house in Baldwin Hills, in the neighboring 26th District. Property records show he bought the Baldwin Hills home in 2000.
David Demerjian, head of the district attorney's public integrity division, said last year that his office had received a tip that Wright had not been living in the district despite having listed the Inglewood address as his home when changing his voter registration in March 2007. Voter registration affidavits and declarations of candidacy are signed under penalty of perjury.
Wright listed the Inglewood address as his residence on his voter registration form. On his declaration of candidacy, Wright did not list a home address, although in signing the document he asserted that he met all the requirements to run for the office, including residency.
The Senator's district runs from the coastal cities of the Palos Verdes Peninsula through the harbour area and part of Long Beach, as well as through Compton, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and some portions of the city of Los Angeles and unincorporated areas.
A veteran politician, Wright was a district administrator for Rep. Maxine Waters before being elected to the state Assembly in 1996, serving six years before term limits forced him out in 2002. He ran unsuccessfully for the Los Angeles City Council the following year.
The newspaper reports that he is popular among his Senate colleagues, some of whom rallied around him Thursday.
"Rod Wright has been a strong voice in the civil rights community for over 30 years," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D- Sacramento). "And while all of us are expected to obey the laws, a criminal indictment on a merit of residency threatens to silence a voice that I will continue to listen to and respect."
Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) said she hopes her colleague will be vindicated but called the charges very serious.
"In democracy, it is sacrosanct for people to be able to elect a representative who represents them in their district," Romero said.
Source: InfoPowa News