Former California legislator Gloria Romero called it “heartbreaking” when a Los Angeles jury delivered perjury and voter fraud verdicts Wednesday against former City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife.
But the 12-year lawmaker from Los Angeles who served in both the state Assembly and Senate -- including six years as Senate majority leader -- says she believes many elected officials don’t actually live in the districts they were elected to represent.
Romero, who now leads an education reform group, said the Alarcon verdict "sends a powerful message to Sacramento today that it matters. You can't lie to the voters and you won't get away with it any longer."
In January, state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) was also found guilty of perjury and voter fraud for lying about where he lived to run for state office.
The jury found Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, guilty of a total of seven felony counts of perjury and voter fraud for lying about where they lived so he could run for city office.
Prosecutors said the Alarcons didn't live in L.A.'s 7th Council District, which Alarcon represented on the City Council until he termed out of office last year. Alarcon, 60, and his wife were charged with 21 perjury and voter fraud counts over statements on documents between 2006 and 2009.
After five days of deliberations, a seven-woman, five-man jury acquitted them of 14 of the 21 counts.
The Alarcons say they plan to appeal the verdicts. Mark Overland, one of the couple's lawyers, said "the verdicts just make no sense."
If the decision is upheld, the veteran San Fernando Valley politician could face up to six years in state prison and his wife up to five years and four months. With a felony conviction, Alarcon would be banned for life from holding elected office.
Former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who filed the original charges in the Alarcon case, said that Wednesday's verdict shows jurors agreed with the prosecution's case, and "reinforces the principle that elected officials should obey the law" when it comes to residency requirements.
The district attorney's Public Integrity Division prosecuted the cases against the Alarcons and Wright.
"I hope it sends a message to all elected officials to play by those rules," Cooley said. He added that voters assume that candidates live in the districts they're running to represent, and it's important that they actually do.
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