Sen. Roderick Wright granted leave of absence pending felony case

Sen. Roderick Wright granted leave of absence pending felony case
State Sen. Roderick Wright speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO -- State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg announced Tuesday that Democratic Sen. Roderick Wright has requested and been granted a paid leave of absence from his senate position as he awaits sentencing on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud.

Wright faces a May 16 sentencing hearing at which he will ask a trial judge to overturn a jury verdict that the Democratic lawmaker lied about living in his Senate district when he ran for office.

Prosecutors said Wright lived in a large house in upscale Baldwin Hills, outside the district, instead of a house he claimed as his residence in Inglewood.

"Today I met with Senator Wright and he requested an indefinite leave of absence pending the conclusion of the legal process now before the trial court in Los Angeles," Steinberg said in a statement. "I've accepted his request and wish him well going forward."

Wright plans to appeal the verdict on grounds that he met the standards of residency established by court precedent.

"After much reflection, I have decided to take a leave of absence from the State Senate, so that I may devote my full attention to pending legal matters," Wright said in a statement.

"It is a great honor to represent the people of the 35th Senate District," he added. "I remain hopeful that – through due process – I will once again have the opportunity to fight for laws that strengthen our communities and support those most in need."

Steinberg has been willing to wait for the trial judge to rule on the validity of the jury verdict and to sentence Wright before acting. The Senate leader said Monday that he will move to expel Wright from the Senate if the trial judge confirms the conviction and passes a sentence.

While on leave, Wright will continue to collect his $95,291 annual salary but he will not receive the $163 per diem check for each day the Senate is in session. His staff will be able to continue handling constituent requests, according to Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Steinberg.