Lawmaker’s Child Faces Jail Over Traffic Violations

Times Staff Writer

Assemblywoman Cathie Wright’s daughter failed to inform the Ventura County Municipal Court about new three traffic offenses, as required, after a municipal judge placed her on probation and gave her a 30-day suspended jail sentence for numerous moving violations, the judge said Monday.

Victoria Catherine Wright, 24, was told by Judge Herbert Curtis III on April 18 that another conviction would result in a jail stint. He fined her, placed her on probation for three years and stipulated that she inform the court of future offenses within 10 days.

Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) said Monday that her daughter acted on the advice of her attorney when she failed to heed the court order. The attorney, however, said he never gave Wright’s daughter such counsel.

Meanwhile, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury said that his office, which opened an investigation last week of allegations that Wright sought “to influence the outcome” of her daughter’s citations, had received new leads.


One Complaint

The inquiry was triggered by a single complainant, Bradbury said Monday, but “there are now numerous sources of information that are pertinent to our investigation.” He declined to disclose the identities of the assemblywoman’s accusers or to reveal details of the probe.

Cathie Wright reiterated that she has done nothing improper in contacting Simi Valley, Ventura County and state Department of Motor Vehicles officials on behalf her daughter. She has suggested that Bradbury is trying to score political points at her expense.

“When does your child not become your constituent?” Wright asked. “Where do you draw the line?”

State DMV officials say that Wright sought no preferential treatment for her daughter, despite the lawmaker’s intervention, and that Victoria Wright received none.

James E. Dunn, a traffic safety manager, was dispatched from Sacramento to hold an administrative hearing for the younger Wright in Van Nuys in July after the assemblywoman sent a letter to DMV Director A.A. (Del) Pierce on her daughter’s behalf. Dunn, who reviews DMV appeals for Pierce, overturned a decision by a DMV hearing officer a month earlier to suspend Victoria Wright’s license for six months.

Instead, Dunn gave her a six-month license restricted to traveling to and from work.

11 Violations

At the time of the July hearing, the younger Wright had been convicted of 11 traffic violations in the previous 18 months, including 10 for speeding. Her four points for four speeding offenses in the previous 12 months had led to the June suspension.

In overturning the suspension, Dunn said Monday that he took into account the fact that Victoria Wright had never been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, had never had a violation expunged from her record by attending traffic violators’ school, had only been brought before the court one time and vowed that she “had grown up” and would not to break the law again.

He said overturning the suspension was not unusually lenient treatment.

Cathie Wright said Monday that her June 22 letter to Pierce “was basically a form letter in which you ask for an administrative review.” She said she would have sent it for any constituent.

“My daughter’s presently suffering from financial hardships and must continue working to alleviate the situation,” said the letter requesting a restricted license. “She is unable to get to her place of employment except by car.”

Victoria Wright lives with her mother in Simi Valley and works in a supermarket in Thousand Oaks. Cathie Wright’s political colleagues say that the lawmaker, whose husband died in 1982, has long complained of problems with her only child. Said one: “This is part of an ongoing saga.”

After the July hearing, Victoria Wright subsequently received tickets for five additional moving violations, including three more for speeding, and faces a one-year revocation of her license at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Dunn said she also failed to keep a spoken agreement to alert him to any new violations.

Curtis, who had placed Victoria Wright on a court-ordered probation in April, said Monday that he only learned of the additional offenses from a newspaper reporter last week. He said he expects Victoria Wright to be brought back before him in two weeks to a month for sentencing.

Asked whether Cathie Wright had sought to intercede in the case, Curtis cited Bradbury’s investigation and declined comment. Wright said she had never spoken to Curtis.

The lawmaker, who said she was speaking for her daughter, recalled that Victoria Wright wanted to contact Curtis when she got two more tickets in September and a third in December but found herself “caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Wright said her daughter “was taking the advice of the attorney who appeared with her at that time not to say anything.” Wright said the lawyer, Frederick Rosenmund, told her daughter: “Let the judge take action.”

Denies Advice

But Rosenmund, who represented Victoria Wright before Curtis, said Monday that he never gave such advice.

“It’s something that I wouldn’t do if I knew there was a court order to report additional violations,” Rosenmund said. He said such a requirement is “often a standard term of probation.”

Rosenmund, who has a practice in Oxnard, is an attorney that Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) recommended to Cathie Wright last year.

Cathie Wright acknowledged Monday that she also called John Paventi, a Ventura County Municipal Court commissioner, about Victoria’s September tickets. Paventi is a former Republican Party official whom Wright recalled supporting in his bid to become a judge. He subsequently disqualified himself from hearing the case.

“Vicki wanted to fight” the tickets, Wright said, explaining her contact with Paventi. “I called him and asked him what the procedures would be and he suggested she just pay the tickets. And he decided he would not have anything to do with the case . . .

“He would have done that if Vicki had just walked in. He knows her.”

Paventi could not be reached Monday.

Staff Writer Gerry Brailo Spencer contributed to this story.