State Sen. Roderick D. Wright (D-Inglewood) deliberately misled voters and broke the law when he took steps to run for an Inglewood-area seat several years ago, a Los Angeles County prosecutor said Thursday during opening statements in Wright’s perjury and voter fraud trial. But Wright’s lead defense attorney said the veteran lawmaker acted properly and was the victim of a “murky” law governing residency rules for candidates and office holders. More than three years after his September 2010 indictment on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud, Wright faced a nine-woman, three-man jury in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. Before the proceedings began, Wright’s attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, said outside the courtroom that his client will testify in the case, which could take two to three weeks. Prosecutors, McKesson said, were “trying to make somebody a convicted felon for the most minor” of matters.
Wright voiced a similar sentiment to a reporter while waiting for the judge to start the session, saying, given all the serious crime occurring, it was “hard for me to believe” that he was in court on this matter.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Bjorn Dodd told the jury he will show that Wright committed perjury and later voted illegally by making it appear that he lived in one place — and was therefore eligible to run for office and vote in what was then the 25th State Senate District — when he really lived in a neighboring district. (State law requires that candidates live in the districts they seek to represent.)
The prosecution’s case, which the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said grew out of a tip to its public integrity division around the time Wright won the seat in 2008, centers on two residences.
There is the modest five-unit Inglewood apartment complex that Wright has owned since 1977, and which he claimed as his address when running, starting in 2007, and from which he voted. And there is the upscale single-family home in Baldwin Hills that he bought in 2000 and which the prosecution alleges was his true home.