Prosecutors are alleging that state Sen. Rod Wright not only lied about where he lived when he ran for the Legislature in 2008 but also concocted a phony residence in a friend’s home during his unsuccessful 2003 bid for the Los Angeles City Council, grand jury transcripts show.
The transcripts, unsealed in the wake of Wright’s indictment last month on eight felony counts that include perjury and voter fraud, outline the Los Angeles County district attorney’s case against the Los Angeles-area Democrat.
Based on such evidence as utility bills and testimony from tenants in a small apartment complex Wright owns in Inglewood — which he claimed as his residence in his campaign for the 25th Senate District — the D.A. is alleging that Wright has lived since 2000 in a house in Baldwin Hills, which is in the adjacent 26th Senate District.
Wright, who has pleaded not guilty and is free on $45,000 bail, is scheduled to return to court Nov. 10.
In her opening statement to a criminal grand jury, Deputy Dist. Atty. Sandi Roth, after summarizing the evidence she would present in seeking an indictment, said Wright “has in fact done this type of behavior before.”
Roth said that in 2002, Wright changed his voter registration to an address in the 10th City Council District in anticipation of the next year’s municipal elections. The place, on West Adams Boulevard, was a small “maid’s quarters” type of apartment attached to the home of barbershop owner Lawrence Tolliver and his family, longtime Wright friends.
Tolliver’s son, Bernard Anthony Tolliver, who has worked in Wright’s district office since February 2009 and now lives with his parents and sister at the West Adams home, testified about the attached apartment. He said it was in some disrepair and used primarily by the family’s cats and for storage.
The West Adams address is not at issue in the criminal case. The case revolves around the Inglewood rental complex that Wright claimed as his residence when he registered to vote in 2007 and when he cast ballots in at least five elections since then, and the Baldwin Hills home that the D.A. alleges has been his true residence for about a decade. But prosecutors are trying to use West Adams to show a pattern of allegedly falsifying residences in order to qualify for a particular office.
State and Los Angeles city election laws require that candidates live in the districts they’re campaigning to represent. Voter registration and declaration-of-candidacy forms are signed under penalty of perjury.
Wright attorney Winston Kevin McKesson said Monday that he would seek to have the indictment dismissed and said the D.A.'s office “did not comply with the rules” because it withheld relevant information from the grand jury. He cited as an example a state elections code that declares a legislator’s address to be where he or she is registered to vote.
“I’m confident we are going to respond to each and every allegation,” McKesson said. “We believe the court will dismiss all charges…. We assert the senator’s innocence in the strongest of terms and look forward to a full hearing on the matter.”
Tolliver also testified that he had been to the Baldwin Hills house on three or four occasions since going to work for Wright. He said he had been called to a meeting at the Inglewood rental after he told Wright he had received a grand jury subpoena. Other witnesses included Wright’s tenants.
Among them was Wanda Lee Sanders, who said she has lived in the detached house behind the fourplex since about 1988. She said Wright, whose father had been her “significant other” until his death in 1991, asked to rent a bedroom from her in 2007 and as payment said she could keep the rent from a sixth unit on the property, a converted garage.
Sanders acknowledged that the room is sometimes used by a flight-attendant friend of hers because of the home’s proximity to Los Angeles International Airport
The other tenants’ rent payments, the transcripts show, were mailed to Wright at the Baldwin Hills address.
During search warrants executed at the two addresses in 2009, investigators found “absolutely no evidence of Rod Wright living” at the Inglewood place, Roth told grand jurors. At the Baldwin Hills house, however, she said they found guns, clothing, awards, mail and many other personal effects.